Why I Support Bernie Sanders: Part 1 – Health Care

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Bernie Sanders speaking in Cedar Rapids, IA on 01/08/16 (Photo by Daniel Dorman)

I have always found it strange that health insurance was tied to a job. I understand how it came about back during WW2, but I’m not sure why it’s still that way today. Many Presidents, politicians, citizens, and unions have called for change to a more universal system. The ACA (Obamacare) might seem like something new, but in fact similar things had been proposed all the way back to Nixon, and then again with Clinton. Some may be happy with the provisions in Obamacare, I however feel the most important part was left out — the public option.

There could be many benefits from having health insurance separated from employment. In the time I’ve been married, just over five years, I’ve switched health insurance seven times. I would have much preferred not to, but unfortunately that wasn’t a choice.

I would like to walk you through these changes to help explain why I feel like universal health coverage from a public option is important.

  • Before I was married, I had insurance purchased privately (1). I was working multiple part-time jobs as well as freelancing while trying to start a business, so I had no full-time work benefits.
  • Soon after I was married, my wife got a full-time job teaching. We took the opportunity to have insurance through her work (2). The coverage was good, but also very expensive.
  • The next year, we switched to a HSA plan (3). It was more affordable, but I was expecting to get information about steps to set up a savings account, but never did. I have no idea where the money that was deducted from my wife’s checks actually went to.
  • I got a new full-time job with a company that paid for a significant portion of the health insurance costs, so we switched to that (4).
  • Six months later, my position was eliminated, so we were forced to switch back to insurance from my wife’s job (5).
  • Then we had a baby. Adding him to our policy would have made the premium significantly higher. We switched to a private insurer (6) and paid roughly the same for two adults and one child as we had been for just two adults with similar coverage.

This brings us to now, beginning of 2016 when — you guessed it — we had to switch plans. Our insurance company was no longer offering health insurance in 2016. We would have stayed on this plan, if it were still offered. Luckily, insurance plans at my current job were more reasonable due to the company starting to pay for a portion of it (7).

This is a mess! The world has changed a lot since the 1940’s. People can barely depend on a company for a job, much less a life long career. Many positions are kept as part-time and contracted out to avoid having to give workers the benefits that were once used to lure workers in! The reality is, people can’t just walk down the street from their high school graduation and into the front door of a factory and take an entry level job, work to move up to better paying positions, earn a pension and retire comfortably anymore. You can’t even walk out of a college graduation and do that. The system set in place no longer works for our current economy. I believe it’s marginally better with Obamacare — it’s more convenient for self-employed people to shop for and compare insurance plans, but costs are still too high and rising, and it still doesn’t solve the problem of health insurance being tied to jobs.

Another problem with health insurance coming and going with a job is that people aren’t always able to take the jobs they want to do or are good at, because the company they would work for doesn’t offer affordable insurance. I’m sure we’ve all heard people who have stayed in jobs they didn’t like because they needed to keep their health insurance for their families.

Just imagine, if health care was an American citizen’s right, we would no longer have to worry about leaving our jobs to start our own businesses or join a start up because we would loose our health insurance.

Imagine being able to freelance and work from home without being stuck finding your own health insurance and paying higher rates because you’re not part of a larger pool.

Imagine not having to worry each year about plan changes and figuring out which plan is going to best suit your unknown future needs.

That seems incredibly liberating and freeing to me. It removes a major barrier to entrepreneurship. It takes a burden off of businesses and allows them to compete for employees by offering good paying jobs, offering exciting environments, or fulfilling work.

Bernie Sanders speaking in Cedar Rapids, IA on 01/08/16 (Photo by Daniel Dorman)

Bernie Sanders is the candidate who I believe has the best chance of helping usher in a new, better system for American health care. He has long advocated for such a system and has plans for how to implement and pay for it. He has been consistent on this subject since before he started his presidential campaign, not just after polls came back suggesting people support it. I believe he will fight harder for this than anyone else.

This is just one reason why I support Bernie Sanders for president.

For more information on Bernie’s health care plans, visit www.feelthebern.org.

The Man in the Mirror

A little over a month ago, I saw a sideview of myself in a mirror and was shocked to see how far my belly stuck out. I knew I had put on some weight – my clothes fit a bit tighter, it was hard to breathe when I would bend down to tie my shoes – but I somehow hadn’t really noticed how fat I had gotten. But I do know how it happened.

IMG_0650During the week-long hospital stay for my son’s birth, I got hooked on soda. There was a soda fountain just down the hall from our room. The general chaos of that whole week, being overly tired and not knowing what day it was, much less what time, I’m sure I drank way more Pepsi and Mt. Dew than I care to know. It is really easy to start drinking pop, but it was really hard to stop.

To make things worse, I have a hard time getting myself to drink water, especially from places other than home. It sometimes tastes weird, or if you have a plastic or styrofoam cup, it tastes like… well, styrofoam or plastic. I’ve gotten water bottles in the past, and after a few times through the dishwasher, the plastic takes on a dishwasher smell and the water tastes like soap. I had a metal water bottle that I liked, but it wasn’t dishwasher safe. That means it ended up sitting on the counter waiting to be hand washed for about a month. Pepsi, however, always tastes like Pepsi.

The cards were stacked against me. Everywhere you go, these’s soda. If I go to Taco John’s for lunch, the meals come with a drink. I don’t want to order the food separately, because it’s only handful of cents more to get it with a drink. I also don’t want to get the drink and then just use the cup for water. If I’m at work and I get thirsty, there’s always soda in the vending machine, along with some weird diet iced tea. If I stop at a convenience store, a bottled water is as much as, if not more than, a bottle of pop. It just doesn’t feel right to pay that much for a bottle of water. So what could I do?

I just quit.

I IMG_0651decided that the next Monday was going to be the day I quit drinking pop. I finally ponied up and bought a nice glass water bottle – making sure it was dishwasher safe. I pushed through a couple days of moderate headaches. When I had a strong craving for something flavorful and bubbly I would drink an Izzy instead of getting soda. I avoided getting fast food for lunch because I knew I’d get it with a soda.

Then something amazing happened. Not even a week in, I could tell my body was working better. I didn’t feel slow or sluggish. It felt like my internal systems had less friction moving nutrients around my body. I felt good and was proud of myself for overcoming the hold that soda had over me, and proving I have more power than a can of sugar water. I still had cravings for pop, but it was much easier to ignore them. It became somewhat of a game, to see how long I could go without having one.

It has now been well over a month since I last had a drink (of soda…). It feels good both mentally and physically to have gained control over such a simple part of my life. A part that is surprisingly easy to loose control of. For me, this is about that control as much as it is about health. I know I have lost some weight since I quit, although I didn’t weigh myself before and I haven’t been since. I’ve decided I’m not going to regularly weigh in, either. If this becomes about numbers, I’m probably not going to win. If I don’t get much change from one day or week to the next, that’s only going to be discouraging. But wether I loose weight or not, it’s still better for me to be drinking water instead of soda.

Did you know that Coke can be used to clean off corrosion around a car battery’s terminals? Or better yet, get blood stains off of a road. I’m sure many other sodas do this, too. We would never allow ourselves to drink other liquids with these properties, so why do we not worry about drinking soda? Plus, besides be pumped full of who knows what kind of chemicals, dyes, and preservatives, it also contains large portions of two highly addictive drugs – caffeine and sugar.

So there’s all kinds of good reasons to quit drinking soda, and I’m sure someday I will have a can of soda again, but being successful at cutting it out of my life has been a huge reward that has lead to other good things (more on this next time).

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I have found that my success came from removing barriers and committing not to the goal, but to the actions needed to accomplish the goal. It’s so easy to just grab a soda, and it felt so hard to just drink water. I tried to take myself out of situations where I would easily get a soda, and prepare ahead to give myself easier alternatives like having an Izzie or a nice glass water bottle. I’m not worrying about loosing weight, but focusing on finding ways to make being healthier easier. I don’t want to end up trapped in an overweight, lazy, and addicted American lifestyle.

My Veggie Tale

FoodincLast year I set a goal for myself to try one new vegetable a month. Leading up to this idea, I had watched enough food/health documentaries on Netflix to convince myself that a plant-based diet is the only way to survive. At that time, the only veggies I ate were pretty much corn, beans and potatoes – not the best selection. My ultimate goal was to expand my palate with some healthier, less life-threatening foods.

I should mention, I would’ve said I didn’t like vegetables. Some I even thought would make me “sick.” I do seem to have troubles digesting tomato foods, so my “fear” is grounded in some bit of rational thinking. I think it all started as a kid getting sick after a Chuck-E-Cheese (or was it Showbiz?) outing. I had noticed the sauce changed and now had lots of tomato chunks. The words “chuck” and “chunks” are both doubly relevant. I also recall mixing a bunch of different flavors of soda that night, so I’ve also been afraid to mix flavors since. While I may have gotten sick for any number of other reasons, that’s what I ended up associating it with.

So, how did it go?

Well, it actually started off pretty easy. I was at my older brother‘s house in Colorado for Christmas and knocked a few out right away. Another brother had made spaghetti squash with dinner one night. I’m not sure it was the best to start with, but I gave it a try. I don’t remember much about the taste, but I didn’t care for the texture.

The next vegetable was artichoke. It was on a Papa Murphy’s chicken-artichoke thin crust pizza. The pizza was already a flavor I would have liked if the artichoke was left off, so it was a pretty easy try. Turns out, I really liked the combination. I’ve started trying other foods with artichoke in it, and for the most part enjoy them.

fajitas.JPGOther successes came later on. We tried a recipe from my sister-in-law for pork roast with red potatoes and zucchini that was very good. I also enjoy making (and eating) fajitas with green and red peppers and onion. I also don’t mind spinach on sandwiches or as part of other things, like pastas or pizza. While I don’t mind the flavor or asparagus, I prefer it to be with something else – like potatoes or in a pasta.

I was introduced to humus a couple years ago, and instantly became a fan. Someplace I read that an idea for a healthy snack was to dip carrots in humus instead of pita chips. I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, I just can not swallow carrots. I don’t know what it is, but it feel like I have to keep chewing and just can’t get them to go down. Carrots that are cooked and soft, like in a stew, I can eat just fine.

fortunePerhaps the biggest breakthrough was stir fry. Now, I have always thought of stir fry as a Chinese food, which I avoide for a couple of reasons. One is that it tends to have lots of vegetables, mushrooms, and weird looking meat. The second is that nobody ever says they feel great after eating a plate full of Kung Pao chicken.

Anyways, my wife’s Grandma was staying with us for a while after Harvey was born and made chicken stir fry for dinner. Instead of soy sauce and white rice, she used olive oil too cook with and long grain and wild rice on the side. It wasn’t like Chinese food at all and to my surprise, I really liked it. The broccoli didn’t smell or taste bad. My impression of broccoli was that it smelled and tasted about like a full garbage bag. Now I could probably eat some form of stir fry a few times a week and be happy.

So, what did I learn from all this?

I’d have to say that first off, vegetables in fact, do not make me sick. Secondly, fresh whole vegetables are much different from frozen bags of chopped veggies. Third, cooking or adding vegetables to other foods goes a long way to getting them into my diet.

While I didn’t stick to the one-a-month plan, I have made quite a bit of progress. My goal for the future is to start replacing processed, prepackaged and frozen foods with more organic fruits and vegetables. Luckily, resources for healthier eating are becoming more convenient, with both the Fresh Market and New Pioneer Co-op both recently opening stores in Cedar Rapids. Eventually, I plan to start cutting back on meat, as well (more on this later). But I still won’t mix pop or eat tomatoes…

New Vegetables Eaten:

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard greens
  • Red/Green/Yellow peppers
  • Snap peas
  • Spinnach
  • Squash
  • Zucchini