"Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe

My father in law recommended this book, and when I saw it on the shelf, I thought, "Sure, why not read it now?" It was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really, really, really, really enjoyed reading this. I'm sad it's over.

First of all, I thought it would be dead boring because it's obviously not a romance, and there aren't any girl characters. But it was gripping. And the majority of the book is about his time as a castaway on an island, so you'd think that would also be boring, but it was by far more interesting than the beginning and end where there is action. I think it's that way on purpose, because the book isn't so much about his adventures, but his conversion story.

It's introspective, thoughtful, and I can't believe it was written in 1719. That's like 300 years ago, yet Robinson Crusoe was such a real character that I felt like I really knew him well by the end. It's one of those books where you really like the protagonist, even though he's imperfect. I had a lot of the same self introspection that I did when I read "the Screwtape Letters", because there's so many religious thoughts. But I think these ones will stay with me much longer.

There was one point in the book where I had an epiphone like experience thinking: "Wow, I totally know exactly what he means here." I could relate completely. I will try to find the quote, it's just SO GOOD.

I think the reason the book was so powerful and good for me to read was because I had never heard the story before. I had heard that there may be pirates, and I knew that basically he was a castaway on an island, but I had no idea for how long, or what happened there, or what would happen. And there were parts in the book that actually sent shivers down my spine, they were so scary/thrilling.

I would never read this book with an English class, if I were a teacher. It's only good if you read it yourself, because then you will actually care about the religious parts, which in fact is the main part, of the book.

I really liked the writing style. It was mostly in run-on sentences, and I feel like the last several posts I've written are mimicking that style. He also tells the story with lots of foreshadowing, or commentary like, "this would prove to be most useful to me hereafter" etc. which makes the story much more intriguing, I think. This book was so good, and I'm so glad I read it because I felt like I learned a lot, and it was a fun adventure.

What I've been wondering about now is what if the characters in these books met? Like, how would Robinson Crusoe react to Peter Pan, or Ethan Frome? I guess that's what you get when you read 3 books in 1 1/2 weeks.

"Peter Pan" by J. M. Barrie

Thanks Mykle, for finding my Peter Pan cover!!!

First of all, if you are an American or British kid, you will almost surely already know this story. I didn't read it for that, but because Danny said it was a really weird, really good book. It was also very fast to read, and I felt like I had read most of it many times before due to my excessive watching of the Mary Martin version of it when I was little. After reading the book, I would say that the Mary Martin version is the best to capture the overall feeling of the book, the new version does okay too I think but I didn't really like the Peter - he seemed a bit slow to me. The most true to character version of Captain Hook was the one in "Hook", with Robin Williams (who I thought made the worst Pan by far). And basically the Disney version was just that: a Disney version of the story, which is much darker, much more tragic, and much better.

But the Mary Martin version is almost exactly the same as the play, except for the music (and I don't know why they had to make Peter Pan a girl....it didn't really work for me, even when I was a little girl and couldn't be sure). Many of the lines are exactly the same. I laughed out loud when Hook in the book says, "Someone fetch me out that doodle-do!" because I could picture that scene perfectly in my head, when Hook says exactly that in the film.

So, what I learned later was all about James Barrie's life, and how he had some kind of genetic condition where he didn't go through puberty as quickly as other people, so that throughout a lot of his life he had a high pitched, youngish sounding voice. He was also totally a boy at heart. He had a sad marriage, which I'm not sure how it ended, but then he "adopted" a family, which is actually somewhat creepy to me. He took an interest in playing with the little boys in the family (I think there were five?), and most of the characters in the book are based off his experiences with them. The Darlings are the parents, Peter Pan is partly him, partly just the symbol of "childhood" - most interesting though was how Captain Hook was him. I think he is actually a better representation of Sir Barrie than Peter Pan; they both are named "James", they both are sad when/that little kids grow up and don't love him ("No little children love me!"), they are both tragic, sad characters. Hook isn't really a bad guy, but you definitely fear him.

There are so many interesting weird themes developed in this book, I just don't understand why we have to read books like "The Scarlet Letter" or :::shudder:::: "The Catcher in the Rye" in High School. First of all, since most kids have a connection to this book somehow, they would be more willing to read it. Second of all, since everybody knows the plot, the teacher could actually write reading quizzes to test if they read, because there ARE things only in the novel that aren't anywhere else.

What I thought was the biggest difference was that in the Neverland of the story, you actually could die. NONE of the film portrayals show that the way the book does. The Neverland is a dangerous place where people kill and die, and you aren't just saved by magic fairy dust every time. And Peter Pan is probably the saddest, most tragic character of them all.

Plus, there's the whole back story of babies "running away" (implying death? It was written in 1911, very high infant mortality rates) and becoming "lost boys". Dark. Interesting. If I were an English teacher, I'd have my students read this.

"Ethan Frome" by Edith Wharton

After my break with Wharton for Carriger's "Soulless" (which was a much needed break), I returned to read this short novella of hers. Many people recommended it to me. I think it had even more significance to me, because I grew up in Western Massachusetts. It's set in "Starkfield, MA" which doesn't exist, but it might as well the way she described it. I could easily imagine this place, somewhere in northern/central Mass probably, rural - SO so much of this book is about the setting.

I would recommend this book to anybody who is feeling depressed about their life, because they will be sure to realize, after reading this, that their life doesn't suck nearly as badly as it could.

And with this read, I think I will put off reading any more Wharton for a while. Her books are great to read, very well done, but her endings!!!!!!

"Homebirth in the Hospital" by Stacey Marie Kerr

Okay, so I've got a confession: I haven't been posting all of the nonfiction books read so far in 2010. But that is mostly because I don't read all of a nonfiction book; I will skim to the parts that I find interesting.

And truth be told, that's what I did with this fabulous book. The MD who wrote this book shares my exact feelings for what I want out of a pregnancy and birth. I wish all ob/gyns read it. It's very interesting. She reconciles the ideas of being secure in a hospital but having low levels of medical intervention.

The book is a collection of birth stories where the patient had a "homebirth", aka a noninvasive, mother centered birth experience, but in the hospital. I skipped the normal birth stories, and read only the ones where there were serious complications. I'm not sure why, probably there are lots of reasons. For one, I don't want to get too comfortable with homebirths, because even though they are the right thing for soooooooo many, and there are studies shown about how there are less complications and deaths than hospital births for women in low risk pregnancies, I have to remember people like my sister in law, who had low risk pregnancies and then crazy scary complications, where the baby could have died without medical intervention available at the NICU in the hospital.

I really liked this book. Dr. Kerr is very intelligent, and I enjoyed reading what she said. I also agreed with lots of what she said, if not some of her ideas about religion and spirituality; and I also thought some of the things she did when she was younger were completely insane (e.g. living on a commune) but hey she grew up in the '60's.

If you are pregnant, I would recommend reading this for sure.

"Soulless" by Gail Carriger

My brother gave me this book for Christmas. It's called "steam punk" which I think is a way of saying it's a hodge-podge of genres that is trying to make itself into its own niche in the literary world. It's basically set in alternate history version of Great Britain, where vampires and werewolves are registered members of society, in Victorian England.

Whereas Romantic (capital R) books that are set in real Victorian times are all about sex without ever being explicit (as one of my English teachers once said), this one is all about sex but is. So if you are not married, don't read it. And just don't bother reading the epilogue at all. I skipped entire pages. I think it really didn't do much for the whole book.

I like that marriage was involved in their romance, though; it's a nice break from Wharton's land of infidelity.

All in all, the book cracked me up a ton, I emailed the author and she was really nice, I don't know if I'll read her future books if they are going to be so sexy, and I would never recommend this to somebody who wasn't married.


Comment to Aunt Yvonne

So, I've been trying for the past day to post this as a comment, but it's not letting me. So here it is as a post:

Of course it's okay if you comment! I really like hearing others' opinions, and it's really nice to know people actually read my blog.

Also, it costs $4 if you buy the non-brand name acetaminophen, which is exactly the same.

When I was under BYU student health insurance, which is the closest thing I know to a"co-op" model, because it adapts coverage to the needs of the majority of its members (pretty much zero coverage for prescription drugs, but great maternity coverage) - anyway, when I had this plan, I WAS allowed to choose where to get my blood work done. My CNM (I went to a certified nurse midwife because there were no female OB/GYNs who were taking patients at the time, and that was important to me) advised me not to have the work done in her office, but to go to the BYU student health center where it would be much cheaper. I'm glad that I had that choice.

I think the system would be much more fair if we had choices about where to get labwork done. Labs would be forced to compete, which would lower the price. Right now, because prices are totally opaque to the consumer, there is no free market. This is a problem. Thank goodness I had a really nice CNM who didn't want to take advantage of my situation.

I totally sympathize with you about your blood work mess; I had the same situation last year with a pap smear. The BYU health center doesn't do those, so I had to have it done at my CNM's office. And so I was charged for a regular pap smear, which is not covered on the student plan, but "maternity" paps are. So it was also a huge mess, and I also wondered at how somebody without insurance would ever be able to pay for such a service.

I think the price is jacked up because it is assumed that most people will not pay, because they don't. Because they can't. Which is why a simple phone call to the hospital billing office from an uninsured person will often cut the bill by 20-50%; I suppose the hospital is willing to take less money because they are suddenly assured to get SOME money at all.

I agree that this is completely messed up. I can't imagine the grief non-English speaking Americans must go through to negotiate through a system that Danny and I, two college grads, can barely understand, if at all.

Disregarding what mandatory health insurance does in Massachusetts, where many who pay the premiums can't afford to use their health care ANYWAY, I can agree with you that the bill will probably help many to be better off than they currently are.

The fact that each state is to run a government monitored health insurance exchange is less grim than an outright federal health care takeover. At least then there will be 50 chances for it to be done in a way that might work, and doesn't destroy the free market.

I'm not a worshipper of the free market, either. I just think it would work better than having the government run things. I don't really know what form the "insurance exchanges" will take; I do think that if the government gets in the business of running its own insurance company, it will end up being a lose-lose situation for most taxpayers, and here's why I think that:

The government has an unfair advantage because it gets to make laws. What if the government suddenly decides to make it a law that your health insurance must contain certain things that only the government can provide? It can swiftly become a monopoly, just from declaring itself as such.

If by some miracle, the government does not take advantage of its status as "government", it still is funded by all of the taxpayers. We are like shareholders in a company, which gives us an interest in seeing that it succeeds. If it does succeed, but I do not qualify to have its coverage, or a choose a private alternative, than I end up paying for somebody else's health care as WELL as my own. If it does NOT succeed, it's like I just gave my money to somebody who threw it in the trash.

Personally, I wouldn't mind paying a small tax if I knew for sure it would help a poor person to have better health. It's sad, but I don't trust that the government will do that.

But maybe you're right, and time will fix the problems, and Americans will be much better off in the long run.

Also, if there could be a common definition of "health care", I might readily agree that it is a need, or a responsibility. But some people think "health care" is like those cadillac plans that will now be severely taxed, and others think it is going to the ER.

I think that a co-op system in a free market would make health care much more available to the public than having a government plan. But I agree with you, health insurance needs to be more affordable and available, because right now it doesn't work.


Is Health Care a right or a commodity?

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed the "Health Care Bill", which among many other things, will require all Americans to either get Health Insurance, or be taxed heavily. One Health Insurance option will be what I understand is a Government Plan run and managed by the separate states. This option will only be available to small businesses with less than 10 employees the first year, then small businesses with less than 20 employees the next, but by 2014 the general public will have the option to buy government-run Health Insurance.

My previous post touched on what boils down to two main issues: 1. What does "health care" mean, and 2. Is it a "right"? I want to write a little bit more about these two issues because I think they deserve far more attention than either the liberal or conservative medias are giving them.

NPR continues to make statements like, "a landmark Health Care Bill which will provide Insurance Coverage for all Americans," and the local conservative station here in Houston keeps complaining about how, "It is unconstitutional for the government to force Americans to purchase a commodity." So, which is it? A universal God-given right to which everyone, including the poorest poor, should have access, or something you can shop around for in a market, put stock into, sell, trade, invest in, and profit by?

First, we need to define what "Health Care" is. Well, I can't exactly do that because I am just one lone housewife without any legislative clout. All I can do is define what I think it should be. I certainly think that a hospital should be required by law to admit anyone, regardless of ability to pay, in life threatening emergencies. I'm not sure if hospitals must admit all patients in non-life threatening cases, as they currently seem to be, but I can see a whole mess of problems resulting in allowing them to turn away patients. For example, if the people who get to decide what "life threatening" means are in charge of who gets admitted, therein lies a huge conflict of interest. So, I think that maybe the current system of hospitals needing to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay is necessary. But is it "Health Care"?

My mom is outraged that currently over 30 million Americans (this number seems to jump every time I turn on the radio...31 million, 32 million...I'm not sure where this number comes from, honestly) use the ER as their "primary care physician". Which is extremely costly to everybody, most of all the patient, and is one of the major problems with our current system. People can't afford to pay premiums, but they get sick or hurt anyway. So they go to the Emergency Room (when they SHOULD go to an Urgent Care Facility), rack up a bill that is easily 300-400-500 times as expensive as preventative care or non-ER care, and guess what. At the end of the day, surprise surprise, they still can't afford to pay the bill, so they go on a payment plan with the hospital. Often, people can negotiate their debt. If they can pay it off quicker, the hospital will often reduce the bill by 20-50%! But usually, what ends up happening is the hospital is forced to raise prices on everything just so they can balance their budget, which means ridiculously inflated prices. Example: after delivering Jane, I had a tylenol in the hospital. Later, looking at the bill, one pill's worth of tylenol cost me $4. That's enough for a bottle of 100 tylenol pills! Makes you wonder what other procedures and medicine have inflated costs. (But none of that information is available because currently there is not schedule of costs of procedures available to patients, which I think is immoral. You should know how much something costs BEFORE you decide to get it!).

When the hospital's costs go up, private insurance carriers raise their premiums, and so everybody pays more. Clearly we see that "Health Care" as Emergency Hospital Care is not a sustainable model, is costly to all consumers not just the uninsured, is inefficient (who here has waited 4+ hours in an ER to get seen for a broken bone?), and may not be the best way.

For a moment, let's move on to the next question: is "Health Care" a right or a commodity? I don't think a sane soul could argue that the right to "Health Care" has a Constitutional basis, but as a Democratic Republic we surely have the ability to decide if something should be a "right". We could vote on it, and amend the Constitution to include "health care". So far, I have never heard this discussed in any public forum by anyone. All the liberals I know assume it is automatically one's "right".

I cringe when I hear anything declared as a "right". I don't think we should use that term lightly. I can agree with any liberal democrat that health insurance coverage for everybody (provided it is affordable and realistic) would be a "good thing". Personally, I can't swallow the term "right" because it certainly isn't ordained of God like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I can probably agree that health insurance coverage should be the "responsibility" of each citizen, though.

Here is a problem I see with the new Health Care bill: soon, it will be a law that all Americans must buy Health Insurance. As I understand it, for many this cost will be so high, even with the government option, that they will not even be able to use the insurance they buy. They will not be able to afford the bill, even AFTER the insurer has paid their share. I do not see how this gets the poor any closer to actually having better health. Maybe "health care" should not be defined as "health insurance".

Should Health Insurance be a commodity? Is it ethical for a company to profit off the misery and lack of health of its members? Isn't there a major conflict of interest here, as well? If an insurance company has a stated goal of getting all of its members healthy, and it SUCCEEDS, theoretically shouldn't its premiums decrease? And in that business model, wouldn't they LOSE money? Therefore, shouldn't health insurance companies WANT their members to have poor health? Scary!

But what about car insurance? This model seems to work. It's not nearly as inflammatory an issue as health insurance; everybody seems to accept it as "necessary." Everybody is required to have it, but the states get to regulate specific requirements. If you want to have a low premium, you will need to pay a high deductible. If you are in a certain age category that is higher risk, you will have to pay much more. Then, if you get in any accidents, your rate will increase. If you are a "good student", you can get a discount. If you have multiple insurance policies with a company, you can get a discount. Ugh, suddenly I'm reminded of the lady from that commercial: "DISCOUNT!" Car insurance companies are regulated by the government, yet they are tailored to fit each individual member so they can be affordable. There is also an extremely free market for car insurance, resulting in a plethora of annoying ads, which is an indicator of fierce competition. I got an online quote from Geico once, and they sent me at least 17 phone messages and letters (I did not give them an email address, phew) begging, pleading, longing for my business. This doesn't exist with health insurance.

Health Insurance companies fund pharmaceutical companies, which fund major health research projects. My husband is working for one of those projects. If there is no competitive market for Health Insurance, who will fund the research that provides life-saving drugs and technology? What driving force can run the medical industry, if not money? We know that altruistic teachers who sincerely want to impart the love of learning is the driving force that currently runs our Education system (like heck if people go into teaching for the money!); somehow I doubt investors with multi-billion dollar pockets have such altruistic motives.

I think the problem is in the scale. When you get car insurance, there really are only a limited number of things that can go wrong. You hit him, he hit you, it's both of your faults, only one is insured, etc. But Health Insurance is on a totally different scale. Not everybody will get in a car accident every year. But almost everybody will get sick every year. As people age, they will probably drive less. As people age, they will probably get more health complications. The scale of what can go wrong with the human body is enormous in comparison. Therein lies the problem.

If a working-class small business owner cannot afford to insure his employees, should he be penalized? Or is it that he cannot afford to NOT insure them?

Quick real-life story tangent: today I went to the Harris County Tax Office to get our cars registered in Texas. I drove 30 minutes to get there, only to realize I had left some essential paperwork back home. I drove back home, got the papers, then drove back to the Tax Office. The office was dingy, dirty, and disorganized. I waited 45 minutes in line. The system here is nothing like the DMV in Provo, which gives you a number that corresponds with the type of service you need, and has tons of chairs. No, it was all standing, everybody who needed something done all together in one line, no electronic numbers flashing to let you know when it was your turn. Finally the lady called "Next at Station Seven!", I went up and presented all my paperwork, and the lady said that my current car insurance is "no fault" because it's from Utah, so it is not accepted in Texas, which information was not available in a comprehensible way to me on their website. So everything was a huge waste of everybody's time, and I left the office unbelievably annoyed.

Another quick real life story tangent: Afterward, feeling very frustrated, I decided to run another errand so that at least I would have the satisfaction of having accomplished SOMETHING today. I went to FedEx to mail our amended 2009 tax return (so we could get the first time homebuyer credit). As soon as I walked in the door, a very polite well dressed man said, "Hello, how may I help you?" He made a copy of the documents I needed to send, found me the correct envelope and form, and I waited in line for about 5 minutes to send it. If I had forgot my documents, there was a computer available for me to use, and print them out right there. The address I had for the IRS did not include a street address, so the man looked it up for me, and wrote it for me on my package.  The cost was $6, which is less than it would have been to mail it with the US Postal Service, it will get there either tomorrow or Wednesday, and I have a tracking number for no additional cost. The advertisements in the store reminded me of several self-publishing ventures I have had in the back of my mind for some time. I left feeling excited to come back to FedEx.

To me, these two scenarios represent the Government model and the Private Industry model perfectly. In the government model, I had to wait a long time, produce documents required by a bunch of red tape, which I was not able to do, and therefore I couldn't get what I needed done, and I wasted everybody's time and energy. In the private industry model, I was seen right away, my needs were quickly seen to, the cost was low, there was a mechanism for me to get whatever documents I needed, and the whole event was successful and pleasant for everyone. I suppose a better comparison would have been to go to the Post Office, but after today's episode at the Tax Office, I've had my fair share of "the government model."

Okay, so back to right vs. commodity. In my opinion, if Health Care is defined as "Health Insurance" and is declared a "responsibility" (I can't go so far as to say it should be a right) which is mandatory for all, there can be no room for the government model. Why? The government's access to taxpayer money means that we are all shareholders in its company. How can the private model compete with that? Simply put: it can't.

If health insurance is mandatory for all, there needs to be a free market for health insurance. As long as one's employer will provide the best option to you, there is no free market. What the Health Care Bill SHOULD have done is more to regulate insurance markets, more to help new co-op type insurance companies get started, and more to reduce ACTUAL costs of health care.

But no, instead it just makes people pay for a product/responsibility that they won't even be able to use. It's disgusting. I'm sorry, mom and pop, the Massachusetts model does not work. Isn't it something like 20% of Massachusettsians aren't insured because they can't afford it (even though it is "mandatory") and they are heavily taxed? To me, this is government regulated squishing of small businesses. I also heard it's something like 12% of the insured people of Massachusetts don't ever use it, simply because they can't afford to. And yet, so many sit there and pat themselves on the back because finally "everybody" is "insured". 

If the government passed a law that forced me to take out a loan to buy a ferrari, and be in debt for the rest of my life, I would be pissed too. Especially because I wouldn't be able to fix it when it breaks, yet I would be forced to continue paying for it.


The Challis Bipartisan List of 21 Things Government Should Do to Reform Health Care

I don't want my mostly Democrat family to assume they know Danny's and my opinions about health care and health care reform, so I will explain what we think on my blog.

Danny and I have done a lot of talking about health care. It's interesting to us, because most of the past year and a half I have been pregnant. We were forced to learn how to maneuver through a corrupt and miserable system. This complex issue is one we entirely agree on.

Instead of listing our complaints with the current system, I will share what we think can be done to make a better one, and from that you will have some idea whether or not what we think is Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, or just intelligent. Regardless, we've come to these conclusions because WE think they are intelligent, not because they are one or another party's platform. Whether or not you agree is your own affair, but at least you will not assume that my politics are based on goodness knows what. Be aware, we are willing to discuss these issues, which sometimes causes us to change our minds! Imagine that.

In no particular order...

1. Government should have a limited role in mandating health procedures.
My Aunt Yvonne made a good point with the PKU testing: some mandated tests are great. My mom brought up gestational diabetes. Again, we don't object; those are both random conditions that could happen to anyone. We object to being forced into tests for diseases which are NOT random, which we know we do not have. However, some health procedures really are for the good of the country. Some vaccines are absolutely necessary, and should be sanctioned by the government (and in some states, they are; vaccines are a state-to-state issue). We think that some tests can make our country and states safer.
Libertarians support some of this, Democrats support some of this, Republicans support some of this, but we support it because we think it's intelligent.

2. Government should reevaluate laws as technology changes.
The law must be allowed to change, though. Some time in the next 10 to 15 years, Danny says that everybody will have a copy of their genome attached to their medical records. A genome is a map of a person's genetic code. It can tell you a plethora of information about that person's health care situation and needs. Currently, accuracy of a genome is between 97.5-99.95%, and accuracy only increases. We predict that in the next 10-15 years, a genome's accuracy will be so close to 100%, it will be a highly reliable and valuable tool. Many genetic diseases can be ruled out by analyzing this data. Therefore, the laws must be allowed to change with the technology. If, at some point, a look at a person's genome can determine whether or not they have a disease, we had better change the laws regarding government mandated testing! Currently, laws have not caught up with technology, and there are thousands of bioethics suits waiting in the courts, which will decide the future of health care.

So far, we have not heard any party talk about this. We have no idea who would or would not support this. We support it because we think it's intelligent.

3. Government should enforce laws requiring a minimum standard of care, but private entities can impose higher standards on themselves.
Government requires children to be educated in grades 1-10. They do not require all students to get masters' degrees. We believe it should be the same with health care. States should agree what is a minimum standard for their state, and enforce these laws. Whether or not a hospital or physician's office has higher standards should not be decided by the government. This would allow people more opportunity to "shop" for providers and hospitals.
Mostly Republicans support this, but we support it because we think it's intelligent.

4. Government should sanction Medical School Reform
Doctors are over-educated. They spend 7+ years developing their overconfidence and pride. This means that holistic health ideas are overlooked as too simplistic, or not scientific enough. Often those same holistic methods would be cheaper, less invasive, and more beneficial to the patients. For example, maternity care costs could be significantly lowered if midwives were legitimized and accepted as being worthy of administering care to low-risk pregnancy patients. Also, we need to attract people to the medical profession by changing medical school requirements, lowering the cost of a doctor's education, and making it easier to become a general practitioner.
We have not heard any party talk about this, but we think Democrats would more likely support it because they are more progressive in their ideas about education, and they are more willing to make new laws. We support it because we think it's intelligent.

5. Government should sanction ongoing Doctor Education
In order to have a license to practice medicine, a doctor should continually take classes on new scientific developments, methods, and discoveries.
We have not heard any party talk about this, but again Democrats would be more likely to support it; they are in favor of more regulation of businesses. We support it because we think it's intelligent.

6. Government should require doctors and hospitals to have a Schedule of Costs of Procedures
What a procedure should cost should be transparent to a patient as they go into the hospital or doctor's office. This can fluctuate with the market by day, week, month, or year. We understand that currently, this is impossible because of the mere existence of health insurance companies. However, we don't see why the hospital can't say, "Having a vaginal birth will be $2,500 for all of our patients, and if you have one of our preferred providers, it will be $2,000." Transparency is good. Transparency lowers costs and allows families to budget.
We have not heard any party talk about this, but we believe it is something Democrats would be more likely to support. They value transparency, and regulation of business. Though Republicans want less regulation of private businesses, like Hospitals, we think Republicans also value transparency, and could support this. We support it because we think it's intelligent, and because it's absurd that we can't plan the cost of a pregnancy before the pregnancy. Or even almost a year later!

7. Government should enforce laws about Hospital Billing Procedures
Currently, we know that you can wait up to 8 months to get a hospital bill because we haven't gotten Jane's yet! This is absurd and should be illegal. Patients should know what they owe when they leave the hospital or doctor's office.
Democrats would more likely support this idea because they like regulation. We support it because we think it's intelligent.

8. Government should enforce laws that prevent Pharmaceutical Companies from courting Doctors
Currently, Pharmaceutical Companies give doctors huge gifts of cash, vacations, and parties if they agree to prescribe x amount of their product per year. There is a huge conflict of interest in this situation and it is unethical.
This truly is a case where we don't see how any party could possibly argue that the current situation is acceptable. Probably Democrats would more likely support this, again, because they like regulation; we support it because we think it's intelligent.

9. Government should enforce laws that regulate Pharmaceutical Companies' CEO's profits
Danny says he wouldn't mind this, because it is such a tiny drop in the bucket that it ultimately doesn't matter very much. I think it would do a lot to help eliminate corruption. 
Definitely this would be mainly supported by Democrats, we support it because we think it's intelligent.

10. Government should offer low interest loans to new Health Insurance Co-Op programs
Currently, there is no free market for Health Insurance. The employer's provider trumps all. But what if there were Co-Ops, not for profit organizations like Credit Unions, where all the profit goes back to the members? These Co-Ops could be great models of efficiency, especially because members would get to join one which has members with similar health needs. Student Health Insurance at BYU was great for us at the time because we didn't have to pay high premiums for things we didn't need, like prescription drugs, but it had great maternity coverage (as many BYU students have babies before leaving the plan). Danny doesn't have much in common health-wise with his co-workers; why should he be forced to pay for their prescription drugs or smoking habits or whatever else in his premium? A free market for health care can spring out of nowhere if the government is willing to front the expense.

Republicans first had this idea, and continue to fully support it. We support it because we think it's intelligent. We have had a great experience with our Credit Union and co-op-esque Student Health Insurance. We think this would work very well.

11. Government should expand medicaid and WIC type programs
Medicaid is a good program. The standards should be reevaluated and the program vastly expanded, possibly to help cover some of those 30 million uninsured.
From what we understand, Republicans support this idea. We support it because we think it's intelligent.

12. Government should get rid of medicare
Just because you are old does not mean that you should get free health insurance.
Again, from what we understand, only Republicans support this idea. We support it because we think it's intelligent and more fair.

13. Government should establish what "the Right to Health Care" means.
If Americans decide that health care should be a right, we need to have precise language about what that even means. Right now, politicians from either camp just assume that it is a right or isn't, but all of them disagree on what "health care" means. We need language to clarify this matter.
Republicans are begging for this discussion. We don't see how we can get anywhere without establishing this, no matter in which camp you lie. We support it because we think it's intelligent.

14. Government should enforce laws that require online medical records for patients
Americans are too mobile to truly have a permanent, life-time primary care physician. When they move, their records should be easily accessible by their next physician. And when they go into an ER, the records should be accessible to the strangers who will need to diagnose them without knowing them.
Democrats came up with this idea. They claim that this will reduce costs drastically. We don't think it will be a huge decrease in costs, but it will greatly improve efficiency and safety of patients. We support it because we think it's intelligent, and we love technology.

15. Government should offer incentives to Health Insurance Companies who offer incentives for becoming and staying healthy
Like car insurance, where you can get "safe driver" discounts, your health insurance company should give you a discount for going to a yearly physical, and improving your health in ways over which you have control, such as choosing to smoke, drink, exercise, etc.
Again, government meddling in private business is a Democrat thing. Republicans would prefer incentives to laws, and we could see them supporting this. We support it because we think it's intelligent.

16. Government should offer low interest loans to hospitals or private companies who build an  Urgent Care Facility within sight of an Emergency Room
ERs are a huge problem right now. They raise the cost of health care for everyone, mainly because so many Americans use them as their "Primary Care Physician." Urgent Care centers are more affordable because they only treat certain problems, they are open only during certain hours, and they don't have as much expensive equipment. Certainly not all, but MANY patients' problems would be more properly addressed in an Urgent Care Facility. If there were UCF's in direct proximity to ER's, intelligent patients would choose to go to the UCF, if it were open. This would significantly lower the cost of unpaid ER bills.
We think this is originally a Republican idea, but surely Democrats would support it! We support it because we think it's intelligent.

17. Government should enforce laws that dictate hospital employees informing ER patients about the Urgent Care Facility
Unintelligent, illiterate, or uneducated people should be given a choice about going to the UCF. They should be informed about what it is, why it may be better suited to their problem, and what the exact cost difference would be.

We think that the main supporters of these laws would be Democrats. We support it because we think it's intelligent.

18. Government should offer more incentives to families for having children
The ratio of young to old right now is a huge reason why our country is having such problems with health care. The rising generation is smaller than the younger generation, the baby boomers, who are entering the years where they have greater health care needs. If the ratio of young: old is larger: smaller, we would have fewer problems because there would be more people available to pay premiums and taxes.
This is a Republican ideal. Libertarians think any kind of government interference in one's private life is a bunch of baloney. We think most Democrats are more worried about population increase than population decrease, even though typically they are more prone to complicate the tax code. We support it because we think it's intelligent and because we want a lot of children!

19. Government should make elective abortions illegal. Government should protect the unborn as it does the living children in its jurisdiction.
     Well, for one, this would fix our population predicament. To us, the argument of medically necessary abortions to save the mother's life, or abortions due to a horrible forced rape are so comparatively rare that they don't warrant much discussion here; they are a separate issue. Maybe there should be laws that allow abortions in some cases, yes, but maybe making all of them illegal would be better in the end. In our opinion, focusing on these cases too much avoids the main issue, which is that the vast majority of abortions are, sadly, elective. This should be illegal. We believe abortion is or could be murder. The point is, nobody knows for sure. We cannot gamble when it comes to something as important as a life.
     We strongly believe that the millions of children who would be saved each year if elective abortions were illegal would find loving, caring families to raise them, if their parents could not. If there were a need, we would be willing to adopt children into our family, and we know that millions of other families feel the same way. The current situation is that the demand for infants for adoption in this country is far greater than the supply. The ratio decreases dramatically with the increase of the child's age (the older a child gets, the fewer parents want to adopt them), but our understanding of this is that the demand for adoptable children STILL is greater than the supply of adoptive parents! We have done much research on this, and while we recognize that we could still be wrong, we believe we are not.
     We believe that making abortion illegal would stop people from using it as their first form of birth control. People would find other methods for preventing pregnancy, and so fewer children would actually be born (who would have potentially been aborted) than are currently aborted.
     We believe that it is the government's duty to protect its citizens and potential citizens, and this includes the unborn. They are the most helpless, and the most in need of protection. Abortion is an attack against the defenseless.
For some reason, the only people we hear supporting this idea are Republicans. Perhaps a blue dog Democrat or two? We support it because we think it's intelligent, and probably the worst thing that our country is currently doing. This one issue could completely change our votes for a particular candidate, it is that important to us.

20. Government should enforce laws that protect doctors from most medical malpractice suits
There is a place for suing a doctor who willfully neglects a patient, or willfully harms a patient. It should be in a criminal court. Currently, suing doctors for malpractice doesn't do anything to punish the doctor; it just raises everybody's premiums, including the sue-er. The doctor has already been "punished" for all the past doctors' mistakes, by having to pay over half of his income to malpractice insurance. This is ridiculous. Doctors are humans, and should be allowed to make mistakes, even if it means sometimes those mistakes lead to patient deaths. Those mistakes in themselves should not ruin the doctor.
This is a Republican idea. We support it because we think it's intelligent.

21. Government should increase incentives to charitable donations for Community Health Programs
We're sure all kinds of free or low cost health care could be provided by creative people in communities or churches if their members had enough incentive to give charitable donations. Right now, that incentive is too low.
This is a Republican idea. We support it because we think it's intelligent and would increase services to the needy.

Where Danny and I stand
Republican Ideals: 10
Democratic Ideals: 8
Bipartisan Ideals: 3

Libertarian Ideals: 1

Our Own Ideals that don't follow a party line: 1

But like my brother says, "Republicans and Democrats agree with each other on every meaningful issue."


Failing to take an STD test can result in Child Neglect Allocations in Texas

Here's what happened:

I checked my email. I had a message from my health insurance company (United Health Care) saying that I had 2 newly filed claims. I logged onto my account to view those claims. They were for the following: an HIV test ($8.17), a chlamydia test ($20.89), a human papilloma virus test ($20.89), and a Gonorrhea test ($20.89). This totals to a $70.84 charge for being tested for STDs.

In Utah, my physician asked me whether or not I wanted to be tested for STDs. I laughed and said, "No!"

Here in Texas, I was not even informed by my OB/GYN (Dr. Amina Sayeed of OGA West in Katy) that these tests would be performed. I had no way to "opt-out", even if I had wanted to. Naturally, I am upset. The other prenatal tests, which were routine in Utah, and I expected to be performed, cost me $54.52. Which, by the way, is over twice as much as I payed with DMBA, BYU's Student Health Insurance. There, I went to the Health Center lab, paid $25, and didn't even know it was a great deal. Right now, I feel frustrated that I have to pay about $125 for prenatal screening tests, over half of which will definitely be negative.

I sent an angry (but polite) email to my OB/GYN's office. To me, failing to inform a patient of a test/procedure that will be performed on them (or their blood) is unethical and unprofessional. Not to mention illegal. I then found a new provider.

I found out from my new physician that Texas State Law (http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/HS/htm/HS.81.htm#81.090) requires HIV testing, syphilis testing, and Hep B testing in pregnant women at least one time during pregnancy. My previous OB/GYN said that they need to get the HIV, chlamydia, HPV, and gonorrhea tests three times. This doesn't even include the syphilis and Hep B tests. I don't get it. I was tested for a whole bunch of stuff that the law doesn't even mandate. Three tests could be manageable, but am I really expected to be tested for SIX STDs a total of THREE separate times? That would be at least $250 per pregnancy, just on STD testing!

I asked my new physician what would happen if I refused to take the tests. She said that if there was no record of my HIV, syphilis, and Hep B results on file at the time when I go into the hospital in labor, then the hospital would try to administer these tests. If I then refused, the hospital would contact Child Protective Services.

This is an outrage. The government should not have a role in telling me which tests I need to take. This is an example of how the chaste and monogamous have to pay for the promiscuity of the rest of society. Not only is it unfair, it's insane. Doesn't CPS have REAL threats to take care of?

Mom, and Janny, don't worry; I'll take the stupid tests. CPS is so corrupt and evil, there is no way Danny or I would let them come near our family with a 40 foot pole. Really, it's not the money that is the main issue, although there is no room for pointless $70 tests in our tight budget. What enrages me, what I find truly maddening, is the complete lack of trust the government gives to its citizens through legislation like this. I don't want to live in a nanny state, where some distant, white men make decisions about my family's health and well being. I want to live in a place where the government lets me make my own decisions about personal issues, like STD testing.

There is NO WAY that government-run health care can be a good thing for this country. Period.

Oh yeah, and the response I got to my complaint to the OB/GYN was from an irritated, defensive office lady who said things like, "If you don't get these tests done, you are a bad mother," "These tests are standard and are done everywhere, and I can't believe the office you went to before didn't do them," "If you don't get these tests, there's no way for your baby to be born healthy," "You wouldn't want a baby who has an STD," and, "There is no way to know that your husband isn't cheating on you." I felt bad, because she told me about how her husband had an affair, and she had no idea. I think on some level, this was personal to her. Though, that doesn't excuse her rudeness.

On some level, she's right; there is no way to definitively prove that a spouse will be or is being loyal. But when the society erodes into assuming that a spouse is NOT, there is a huge, huge problem, far deeper than this annoying bill that we have to pay.


Baby 2

So, I am 14 weeks pregnant. I guess announcing it officially on my blog means it's "public knowledge". Now that I am in the 2nd trimester, I figured it would be a good time to announce it.

Here is an ultrasound from 12 weeks:

And for all the ultra-sound challenged viewers out there, here is the one that Danny modified so you can tell what is what. He did it in blue because he's hoping it's a boy.

So far, zero morning sickness. Just really sore gums. The dentist said I have "pregnancy tumors". There's nothing to do for them except keep them clean and hope they don't get bigger, which they probably will. But they should go away as soon as I'm not pregnant anymore.


"The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis

Wow, what a fantastic read! You know how there is a certain point in every book that you get to eventually, where you are like, "I am going to finish this book for sure." Well, in this book, that happened literally one page before the end. That has never happened to me while reading a book before.

It's probably because the whole book was very short. And it's definitely not to say that I wasn't going to finish it earlier on; it's just, well, the "gripper" part, the "clincher" - whatever you want to call it - that part of the book where I have to quit whatever else it is that I am doing and focus all my attention on my book - that wasn't until the very end. It made for an interesting ending.

You probably have heard of this book before. It's about a devil giving advice to his nephew devil who is tempting an English man. He gives him specific advice about how to thwart "the Enemy" (aka God) and His plan. Despite the fact that book is from the point of view of a devil, it's actually quite uplifting! I feel like I gained a lot of insight about how I can become a better Christian, just from reading the book. Plus, many different parts made me laugh, or think, "Hmm, yeah, that's totally true! I had never thought that before."

So, I definitely recommend this. It's quick, uplifting, interesting, and has a great ending.


"The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver

My High School chemistry teacher, Mr. Luikart, gave me this book to read when I came home from France. I'm kind of glad I waited to read it, because it's so serious. Plus, being a mom was a huge help in understanding and sympathizing with the characters. I don't think that I would have been as willing to forgive the characters for some of their big mistakes if I weren't married with a baby.

It's about a family whose father decides to take them to the Congo in Africa to do baptist missionary work. The whole story is told from various points of view of the four daughters, and the mother.

It was extremely tragic, and it could have ended probably 150 pages earlier than it did. It was interesting that it kept going, though. Even though so many horrible things happen in the book, somehow Kingsolver is able to make you laugh through your tears. Okay, well, figurative tears. I didn't actually cry, I just spent a lot of time thinking, "Oh man."

I can understand why Mr. Luikart appreciated this book so much, having spent a good portion of his life in service to the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, basically another failed state. I learned a lot about the history of American involvement in Africa, and it was so ugly and disgusting, you would not believe.

Read this book if you want to think. And remember, the characters are totally works of fiction. The setting, however, is not.