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Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton

Speedo and A.H.I.P.

Rating: 5 votes, 5.00 average.
Yesterday, when I went to K-Mart to pick up some drugs, my chest felt weird in a painy kind of way, and people were asking me if I was all right. It is possible that various pressures of late have been escalating the graying of Jim. When I look in a mirror lately, something I try to avoid, it's hard for even me to ignore a certain corpse-like quality that is accelerating its hold on my features.

While awaiting the prescription re-fill for what is, in effect, a legal form of speed without which perambulation itself would go from excruciating to impossible, I decided to check my blood pressure.

I was hoping for either low/normal readings, which might preminisce a few more good months; or astronomically high readings, which might indicate more immediate relief of some species is at hand.

The results were equivocal.

158/78 with a pulse of 40.

Since I am not close to meeting my deductible, going to a doctor for an informed opinion was, of course, out of the question.

I made the diagnosis myself:

Systolic blood pressure: high.
Will to live: low.


I think one of the factors that set off yesterday's red hydraulic pressure spike (which strangely enough managed to add no color whatsoever to my skin, which has remained uniformly crepey and cadaverous) was an AP story on the WellPoint health insurance company's decision to raise the rates on some of its individual customers in California by 39 percent.

California, according to our esteemed free marketeer and fiscal austerity booster, J.L., has much better regulations and protections for individual consumers than my own state of Pennsylvania. I intuited that whatever species of buggery is allowed in California is thus likely to transform itself into an even more rapacious form of rectal rape in less progressive states.

Today, I woke to find that California is not alone in this massive increase in rates for those of us caught in a death spiral.

Please consider checking out today's AP story at

A few sample quotes:

  • "We frankly have been very frustrated by the size of these increases," Pingree told The Associated Press. "Obviously, they are attempting to price certain people out of the market."

  • "Premiums are far more volatile for individual policies than for those bought by employers and other large groups, which have bargaining clout and a sizable pool of people among which to spread risk. As more people have lost jobs, many who are healthy have decided to go without health insurance or get a bare-bones, high-deductible policy, reducing the amount of premiums insurers receive."


As regular readers of this vlog might have realized by now, this topic of health insurance is one that has been bugging the Holy Living Bejesus out of me for the past several years.

One of things that has proven particularly onerous to me is the "advice" I have received from the J.L.'s of the world, advice that is usually offered in both a condescending and bamboozingly uninformed way. It boils down to this: there is a Magic Solution out there for you, but you are not looking hard enough for it.

Check out this high-deductible plan from AARP.

Join an association.

Do something.

And if none of these things work, move.

Mr. J.L., I do hope you have access to good proctological care, because it appears to this layman that you have a severe pre-existing condition here.


Like blind men examining an elephant, I know that my perspective on the health insurance situation in our country is parochial at best.
For most of my life, I have been by most reasonable definitions a middle class person.
This is starting to slip away with increasing alacrity, and it has not made me into what, by most reasonable definitions, could be called a better person.

I feel for the first time in my life a very strong sense of prejudice and discrimination-feel free to laugh if you want, J.L., but there you have it.

When I decided to pursue my career as a magazine writer in the early 1980s, I knew that it would not be the easiest route to a secure life. I knew that I would have no employer to match my social security contributions, and hence have been paying 15 percent off the top of everything Ive earned.

I knew, as well, that I would have to pay for my familys health insurance premiums.

What I didnt know then, and I am not sure anyone would have been able to predict this, is that:

* two of the most commonly treated conditions in the U.S.-depression and high cholesterol-would render both my wife and me uninsurable if we ever tried to change policies after going on treatment for these

* that the policy we bought at the time, and found quite affordable when we were 31 and 27 respectively, now takes up 40 percent of our pre-tax income.

This is the part of the elephant I am looking at, and I assure you, it is a very disgusting part indeed.

You may want to write this off as a political rant, Mr. J.L. and your Ayn Rand love-slave ilk, but I am telling you, I have spent the last year looking at options to get out of this trap, and the only possibilities I can find are to give up insurance altogether, or to try to lower my income to the point where we will qualify for a state-aided policy that is basically a welfare kind of thing.

J.L., you may have the luxury of getting all huffy about this in a political sense, but I am certain it does not effect you in a personal way. You sound like you are old enough to be retired; chances are you are sucking the socialist teat of Medicare already, the kind of socialism I suspect you independents with the little is rant against when its offered to anybody else.

Again, I am slipping into ad hominem territory here, and I apologize. Its just so damnably frustrating to have no way out and the responsibility of your family on your shoulders and a sense that the system is rigged against you.


All of which circles me back to the title of today's vlog: Speedo and A.H.I.P.

As most of us suspect, Speedo's decision to add a rubber-like flotation material to the LSR suit, which soon lead to competitors, from B70 to Jaked, adding even more rubber-like flotation materials to their racing suits, appears to have been the final straw that forced FINA's hand.

This overreaching on Speedo's part, in my opinion, was what killed the golden goose. If they had stuck with pure textiles, and world records had continued to fall on some reasonable schedule--as opposed to an explosion of them--I suspect that FINA would have never had to ban tech suits.

Speedo would still be selling $400 FastPros and the like.

I, for one, will never spend more than $25 on a swimming suit again in my life.

My prediction: America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the lobby "representing nearly 1300 member companies providing health insurance coverage to more than 200 million Americans," should have learned from Speedo's mistake.

Go ahead and raise rates by 10-39 percent per year till virtually all people in my boat are uninsured, leaving only the best actuarial "risks" with private insurance.

At some point, this is going to come back to bite you.

I only hope I live to see the day.

American Private Health Insurance

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  1. rodent's Avatar
    The snowman is too funny.
    Just go to the MD and pay for it. I take blood pressure meds they are expensive but HBP does damage to you.
    Unfortunately stress is a given in the life of the middle class in America. I don't think we will see free health care anytime soon. Try to stay alive until you are eligible for Medicare. Asumming it doesn't go bankrupt before we get there!
  2. scyfreestyler's Avatar
    Get it checked out, Jim. At the very least, follow up with another reading on a different machine in the next few days.
    Updated February 13th, 2010 at 02:13 PM by scyfreestyler
  3. RustyScupperton's Avatar
    I despair for what America has become. It is a cold-hearted and selfish place; survival of the fittest is our new teabagging ethos. The "personhood" granted to corporations by the recent obscene Supreme Court decision is a stake in the heart of the America of my dreams. There is a self-centeredness in the heart of Teabag America that fills me with loathing. Our healthcare system is disgusting. The teabag claim that "ours is the best healthcare system in the world" is a despicable lie.
    Jim, I am afraid you are right, this effed up system is going to implode, but there is going to be a hell of a lot more suffering to come first.
    I for one am offering any help I can to you and wish the Masters swimming community might consider tithing as well so that you and your lovely family can remain insured.
  4. jim thornton's Avatar
    Thanks Rusty. I like that tithing idea quite a bit. But before I post an address where my fellow swimmers can send their checks and money orders, I need to complete the process of incorporating myself, and then turning the Jim Thornton Corporation into a bank holding company to qualify for TARP funds. Of course, it shouldn't be hard to link something up from the drop box in the U.S. to the Caymans and then from there to Switzerland and back through Morocco to another account in the Caymans.

    Once I get everything set up, I will let everyone know where to send their money.

    The address will probably be something like this:

    Jim Thornton Inc. Holding Company PLC
    Cayman Islands
  5. swimsuit addict's Avatar
    Slate recently did a depressing article on preexisting conditions that can disqualify one for insurance in Texas. Probably nothing in there you're not already painfully familiar with, though.

    That poor snowman looks incrediibly sad to have been slandered by an association with AHIP. (If the insurance mess were something global warming could solve . . .)
  6. bsherm81's Avatar
    You have some strange possibilities here Jim. It may sound strange, but there is a growing segment of the financial planning field that involves bankruptcy planning! Were you to take your health premium and put it in a retirement plan, it couldn't be touched by most bankruptcies. If you stay healthy, then you end up with all the money that wouldn't have been premiums. If you get sick, then it gets dismissed in the bankruptcy. Either way, you get cared for. OF COURSE, make sure you fully investigate all the details(this is why I can't write a blog...compliance would have field day), but the analysis, sadly, has become one that the system Rusty and the rest of us so detest has forced upon us.
  7. jim thornton's Avatar
    Bill, I am thinking of different ways to legally "scam" the scammers, but I doubt if I am close to bright enough. In fact, one of our right wing friends recently suggested that I am as dumb as a box of rocks.

    But correct me if I am wrong, but box-of-rocks dumb is a disability, right?

    One that would help me qualify not only for social security disability payments as well as state-aided insurance, maybe even Medicaid for "vulnerable adults."

    Quick question: what assets are safe from creditors?

    Your house?

    Your retirement, such as it is?

    What about investment real estate?

    What I would truly like to do is to do every legal loophole I can, write a How To book, somehow incorporate so that the profits from this book are shielded from counting as income (maybe the corporation/holding company could pay me a salary so small that I still qualify for benefits from the state), and then, on the day I turn 65 and qualify for Medicare, I can liquidate the assets of my book and speaking fees I have collected, and live high off the socialist hog.
  8. jim thornton's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by swimsuit addict
    Slate recently did a depressing article on preexisting conditions that can disqualify one for insurance in Texas. Probably nothing in there you're not already painfully familiar with, though.

    That poor snowman looks incrediibly sad to have been slandered by an association with AHIP. (If the insurance mess were something global warming could solve . . .)
    Hi, Ms. Addict. I read the Slate link, and the thing that I found interesting about it is how relatively lenient the Scylla and Charybdis passageway Texas BCBS is compared with my state. Here, it's not enough that you aren't currently being treated for any mental illness type thing (depression, anxiety) but that you have never been treated for it. Ditto for taking statin drugs, which half the country over age 45 are taking (and will probably significantly delay heart disease in many, many people, presumably making them better, not worse, bets actuarially speaking.)

    I thought one of the most poignant lines in the Salon piece was about colonoscopies and how, Katie Couric's crusade notwithstanding, you should not have this done. If they find and remove a pre-cancerous polyp, you won't be able to ever qualify for insurance.

    Meanwhile, the wealthiest .01 percent of the nation love the status quo because it means that there is a chance that some new futuristic technology or drug will be pioneered that might benefit them when they need it some day.

    They could care less if people are dying today because the current system denies them the basic kinds of interventions that countries like Cuba give their citizens regardless of wealth.

    Oh, how I pray some of these Re****licans will lose their insurance one day and see what a beautiful system their obstructionism has wrought and continues to fuel.
  9. bsherm81's Avatar
    The residence and retirement plans are shielded, probably cars too. The equity in the B&B is the issue. Still worth an analysis and a consideration.

    On a happier note, I have seen a couple of those staunch right wingers (health care is a privilege they had said) lose their job and health care. Quite a different tune they hear when their shoes are on somehow different feet.

    The good thing is that swimming reduces our odds of needing much care.
  10. jim thornton's Avatar
    Thanks for the info, Bill. I've been dueling on Facebook today with a tag team of wingnuttery.

    Guy A (they are always guys) is libertarian extremist who presumably doesn't believe in Darwin per se but embraces "the survival of the fittest monopoly is infinitely preferable to any government intervention" kind of thinking.

    Guy B is a Right Wing Republican Jesus Freak who sees no irony in, as one wag has put it, "Jesus has stopped healing lepers for free because it was hurting Insurance Company profits."

    It is a little scary to contemplate the fast-congealing positions on all extremist fronts.

    As Yeats suggested, the centre cannot hold:

    The Second Coming

    TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
  11. bsherm81's Avatar
    I love being able to count on you to find a literary escape. When I was young and trying to read those I didn't have the patience or awareness to appreciate them.

    Guys A and B sound like the fully indoctrinated. I bet they cheer on the likes of Tom Tancredo, but couldn't pass the test he wants them to take. With the Olympics in full swing, we hear about the athletes who have changed countries...and the hoops they have had to jump through to get it done. Like citizenship tests! Mostly, when did we become such a selfish society? When you swim fast it doesn't make me any slower or less happy with my times. It may even spur me to try harder. But with wealth it seems that being a "have" has become a fixation. I can't quote the study, but it found that if you have something I don't, then it is worth way more to you because I don't have it. Additionally, if you have one, but I have 6, it holds more value for you than if I were to have 6 also. Can we really be so selfish as a society that health care is such a have/have not variable?? Have we lost our minds?? ...and if so, isn't it a pre-existing condition??
  12. jim thornton's Avatar
    I always think of that famous expression:

    It's not enough that I succeed--my friends must fail.

    Am I being paranoid when I start to wonder if the same cauldron of pressures--economic uncertainty, a massive apparent swindle of wealth from the little guy to the bankers on Wall Street, and racial heebie jeebies--is reminiscent of the kinds of things fomenting in Germany in the years following the Great Depression?

    Is the Tea Bagger tsunami just waiting the long prophecied charismatic with the funny little mustanche--or smeared pitbull lipstick--to ignite another round of horrific behavior?

    My brother takes hope in the fact that most of them are old geezers who wear black shoes and socks to the beach and put their teeth in a glass at night.

    But still....
  13. bsherm81's Avatar
    ...but the old geezers with the high pants vote in droves. they comprise all the poll workers here, and in most local elections make up over 20 of the votes cast!

    The comparison to the 30s is scary. Let's hope that we turn out smarter than that. Maybe I will join my daughter in moving to Chile. (which is nice and warm right now...just close your eyes and think like a Selkie)
  14. jim thornton's Avatar
    I think perhaps it's time to revert to my seal morph and go look for herrings.