The Private Option passed in Arkansas. Now I can re-emerge.

Supporters of Arkansas's Private Option at the Arkansas State Capitol, Feb. 24, 2014

Supporters of Arkansas’s Private Option at the Arkansas State Capitol, Feb. 24, 2014

I haven’t been here in nearly two months. This has been an extremely stressful two months, because my state has faced some horrible opposition to our state’s unique version of the Medicaid Expansion offered under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It’s called the “Private Option,” and it uses federal dollars intended for Medicaid to be used to purchase private insurance plans for Arkansans at up to 138% of the poverty line.

As someone who works primarily from home and cannot get a standard full-time job with benefits, this was of great importance to me and my family. I’ve discussed my role as a caregiver before, but for those of you who are new or may have forgotten, here’s my story that I sent out to many state legislators:

I am a live-in caregiver for my mother, who is in Stage IV renal failure. I also work from home and have a part-time job at a company that is still in its first year of operation and does not yet have the profits or ability to provide employee benefits. My mother was hospitalized three times in 2013. There are many occasions in which if I was not here for her, she would have died. I need to be healthy so I can stay in the home for my mother, who is not healthy.

That’s the short version. The truth is, my mother has come to many close and frightening moments. And I’m really interested in keeping her around for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, I’d been self-paying for all my health care for the past four years. Uninsured, I paid for my doctors’ appointments in cash, I searched online for prescription discount cards that would knock a few bucks off my medication, ordered prescriptions from Canada if they were cheaper, and I spent approximately $300 per month on my medical care. During this time I also found a lump in my breast and went in for a mammogram, which unfortunately is not paid for by charitable organizations to women who are in their thirties.

I’m amazed I haven’t developed a serious ulcer.

I signed up for the expansion as soon as possible, and on Jan. 1, I was covered. On Jan. 2, I was able to visit my primary care physician – the same one I’ve had for 8 years. That same day, I headed to Walgreens and purchased prescriptions that would normally have cost me about $180 for $5. This including my asthma inhaler, which I had not been able to replace in years because of the expense.

This has been so important to me it hurts – and I have been sorely hurt by people who think that I don’t deserve to have health care just because my mother needs me around and I’d rather have her spend time with me and the dog than at some assisted living facility.

I have put so much time in the past couple of months trying to get the private option passed. All it took was for a friend of mine to get the most ridiculous email from Arkansas State Senator Bart Hester. This person wrote at least two people I know that a family of four making $94K/year qualifies for the Medicaid expansion (When in actuality, the most a family of four can make is around $32,500/year). This man, and many others who didn’t even know about the legislation they were voting on, were in charge of our future and our health. We knew it was time to act.

We got the email exchange he received to the media, including the Arkansas Times story you see above, and Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Moritz, who wrote an op-ed on Arkansas’ private option and Sen. Hester’s feelings on it.  Thus began a serious dialogue about the complete disconnect between some of our legislators and our citizens – particularly how many employed citizens of this state cannot access health coverage otherwise. We got more than 800 Arkansans to sign a petition asking their legislators to vote for the public option. We got people – Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, the entire political spectrum – calling, writing personal messages, telling their stories.

This was one of them that made us say, “This is why we’re doing this:”

I am one of the many who use to not have insurance. I don’t understand why because I work as a health aide for the Health Department that deems my health worthless. I had no options and my only option I ever got through working for an agency was over 300 dollars just to insure myself a month. All I ever wanted was affordable insurance. As far as I am concerned no one cares about us. We clean your hotels, your hospital rooms, take care of your grandparents or parents, and the list goes on. However we don’t deserve insurance because we quote chose to be poor. I wish you thought our lives meant something.But mainly, we have saved our state $89 million, kept our only teaching hospital from closing, and have ensured that those of us who own our own businesses, work two or more jobs, work from home or care for our parents can get some health coverage and never worry about a catastrophic event ruining their lives.

The state Senate passed the Private Option immediately, but State Speaker of the House Davy Carter had to hold five votes for it to finally pass. I can’t even begin to tell you about the bickering that ensued. But mainly, we have saved our state $89 million, kept our only teaching hospital from closing, and have ensured that those of us who own our own businesses, work two or more jobs, work from home or care for our parents can get some health coverage and never worry about a catastrophic event ruining their lives. We’ve also set up a way for the Private Option to be paid for when it is not completely paid for by the federal government in three years.

I don’t have to worry about my bosses moving to another state just so they can get healthcare for the entire family. I don’t have to worry about having a horrible asthma attack. My friends don’t have to worry about themselves or their children or their parents, siblings and extended family.

Most importantly? Services for our foster children and our developmentally and intellectually disabled will continue because of this passage. When these people are left out in the cold, what kind of humans have we become?

So basically, during my sabbatical from my website, I’ve been spending a lot of time fighting hard for myself and the most vulnerable people in my state. I hope I don’t have to get the battleaxe out for a while. But now I’m a bit more prepared.

It’s good to be back.

Supporters of Arkansas's Private Option at the Arkansas State Capitol, Feb. 24, 2014

Supporters of Arkansas’s Private Option at the Arkansas State Capitol, Feb. 24, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Created Equal

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All My Children and One Life To Live back on the web!!

I am participating in a campaign from One2One Network and The Online Network. I have not received payment for this post. My participation makes me eligible for a prize drawing. All opinions stated are my own.

Today is the day! All My Children and One Life To Live have returned! You can catch AMC on Hulu and OLTL on Hulu RIGHT NOW!

A couple of years ago, fans of the Agnes Dixon-created soaps All My Children and One Life to Live were hit a serious blow when they were cancelled by the president of ABC Daytime. For decades, these closely-related series went through good and bad storylines, the trials and tribulations of the Martins, the Buchanans, the Chandlers, the Lords, and all the characters who made their entrances and exits either memorable or not-so-much.

I was a fan of both of these shows – sometimes die-hard, sometimes casual – and I must admit I was a bit miffed for my fellow soap fans when the shows were canceled.

For quite a while, there has been talk of reviving these as web series, but it seemed it never would happened. Well, guess what – it HAS! And you can watch these series TODAY courtesy of The Online Network. They’ve labeled these shows as “back and better than ever!” – I’m guessing perhaps because they are now off-network and have more adult-related content that might not be suitable for younger viewers. So maybe watch before the kids do. (But to me, I say, YAY!)

I must give you some updates (or possible warnings, depending on how you look at it): Both of the series take place many years in advance, and you will see many characters aged dramatically. There looks to be a lot of teens now on All My Children, and they’re all the same age regardless of what year they were born. It’s typical and known as SORAS (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) among soap fans.

For instance, Dixie Cooney, who gave birth to JR Chandler in like 1990, is now the GRANDMOTHER of JR’s teenage son. Before you get in a twist, remember that the major hook to all soap operas is to have a teen storyline that will hopefully draw in younger viewers and make them lifetime fans. I was hooked on AMC at age 13 and OLTL at 14. It’s the summer, so you just have to accept that it’s the way it is. I know I’ve had to.

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On All My Children, you will see the return of many favorite cast members and characters. Eden Riegel reprises her role as Bianca, Jill Larson as Opal, Vincent Irizarry as the evil Dr. David Hayward, and the return of Jesse and Angie Hubbard. I’m still not even sure how Jesse came back to life after he died many decades ago and returned as an angel like 10 years ago, but it’s soapworld, where no one ever dies. Even Dr. Joe Martin and Adam Chandler are back!

But one central character missing from the above cast shot – THE central character who carried the show for ages – is missing. Where’s Erica Kane? Now, I’ve heard that Susan Lucci has been contracted to do one episode. Not sure if she’ll do more, but apparently her character will not be so prominent as to appear in the cast photo.

Onto One Life to Live. You’ll see the main cast is MUCH smaller here.

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Let’s see, there are some recognizable characters:  There’s Jerry VerDorn (Clint Buchanan), Kassie DePaiva (Blair Cramer), Robert S. Woods (Bo Buchanan), Tuc Watkins (David Vickers! YES!) and Erica Slezak as the lovely main character, Vicki Lord Buchanan.

Not pictured but also in the returning cast: Robin Strasser as Dorian Lord, and Hillary B. Smith as Nora Buchanan. there are several other returning characters (Tea Delgado, Jack Manning, etc.) I’ve also read that Roger Howarth will make a return as Todd Manning for the first four weeks of the series. Didn’t he have plastic surgery and have another actor play hi- oh, why am I asking?! Soap land, Bellesouth. Soap land.

Daily episodes will be 30 minutes long, with a recap on Friday. Each daily episode will be available at midnight EST.

I haven’t seen these yet, but just the mention of them has my curiosity piqued. You give ‘em a watch, I’ll watch ‘em, maybe we can share our opinions in the comments section. Okay?

Mike and Ike’s Cherri and Bubb, Lem and Mel make limited return to store shelves

IMG_20130220_130258 Cherri and Bubb. Oh, the memories. Cherri and Bubb remind me of my teenage years, when I wore all black, blasted Nine Inch Nails on the boombox and drove my mother crazy. Those were the days.

So when I found a UPS box at my front door, opened it up and found boxes of Cherri and Bubb inside, I squealed with excitement! And then I wrote some really awful poetry in my diary.

Cherri and Bubb join Lem and Mel are back on the shelves through the end of April 2013. Lem and Mel is a combination of Lemon and Watermelon flavors, but to me, Cherri and Bubb will always hold a place in my heart.

The flavors are available in 5-oz. boxes and are between $1 and $1.39.

I got some info on the return of these duly-missed flavors. “We are very excited to bring back CHERRI AND BUBB and LEM AND MEL,” said Donald Houston, Senior Marketing Manager for Mike and Ike. “We hope this will inspire good memories from our loyal fans and produce a new group of Mike and Ike lovers to these favorites from the past. Perhaps this might even inspire Mike and Ike to rekindle their friendship and business relationship.”

Whoah-OH! Yes! Mike and Ike split up last spring to “follow their true passions,” according to a press release from Mike and Ike representatives. “Mike is a musician at heart and produced a music video; Ike is an urban artist and a lover of art,” according to the press release.

The split also garnered celebrity reactions. Check out this news report:

Other flavors from Mike and Ike, including Original Fruits, Tropical Typhoon, Berry Blast and RedRageous!, will continue to be available. Meanwhile, representatives from Mike and Ike are hoping for a reunion. “People of all ages love Mike and Ike and we are reassuring fans and our retail partners that our famous fruit-chewy candies will continue to be produced and sold as we get this resolved,” Houston said.

For more information on the Mike and Ike split, visit them at:

www.mikeandike.com

www.facebook.com/mikeandike

mikeandikebrand.tumblr.com

I was given free product from Mike and Ike for this review. All opinions are my own unless otherwise indicated.

Norovirus: It’s real, it’s awful, and you need to protect yourself.

norovirus Two days ago my mom told me she couldn’t move. I tried to help her get up to go to the bathroom. As she gripped her walker (which she uses rarely), I held her from behind to try to guide her throughout our home. She started to fall. I decided there was no way we could make it, and as I guided back to her chair, I watched her feet buckle under her.

My mother has a number of health problems, but I’ve never seen her do this before. Her body was like heavy Jell-O.

Upon recommendation from my mother’s dialysis nurse, I had my mother sent by ambulance to the Emergency Room, where they tried to administer medicine and food to her and she was unable to keep anything in her system. I couldn’t join her because I was sick myself with a cold – and in retrospect, I’m glad I opted to stay home.

My mother was diagnosed with Norovirus, which has been rapidly spreading across various parts of the country. It was brought to the U.S. on cruise ships in December 2012. It is highly contagious, and since it was brought to the states, it’s put many areas at a standstill. A school in nearby Lincoln, Arkansas was shut down a few weeks ago because of a Norovirus outbreak.

Since my mother was diagnosed, I have learned there are several ways you can protect yourself from contracting this illness. Wash your hands (soap and water, not liquid hand sanitizer), do not take care of anyone who is sick if you are sick, do not drink after people and meticulously clean with cleaners that include bleach.

Should you come down with this illness (I’m still unsure if I’ll get it or not), you need to drink plenty of fluids. Keep some Pedialyte on hand; apple juice is also good. Here is a handy widget from the Centers for Disease Control that you can embed into your own site:

There is no treatment for Norovirus; you just have to sit it out and get plenty of fluids in your system. But do not hesitate to go to the emergency room for treatment if you feel you need to. Because my mother is diabetic and a dialysis patient, we and her medical professionals thought it best for her to be hospitalized.

Here’s a great interview with Kristen Gibson, an assistant professor of molecular food safety and microbiology at the University of Arkansas. Having studied Norovirus for a decade, Prof. Gibson explains the symptoms and causes of Norovirus, why it is spreading across schools, how you can prevent yourself from contracting it, and what to do if you do contract the virus.

This has been a really scary weekend, and normally I would not share such personal information with my readers, but since there are serious outbreaks happening across the country, I wanted you to be aware of how serious this is.

Here are some more resources:

Mayo Clinic: Norovirus Infection

Centers for Disease Control: Norovirus Overview

CNN: What You Need To Know About Kids and Norovirus

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