Posted on August 19, 2014
Before you conservative Republican types get all excited, this is not a write-up criticizing the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare as it’s popularly know. My issue is the price of brand name medications and the general lack of regulation on pricing of these sometimes essential drugs.
My wife suffers from fibromyalgia, which causes her an immense amount of pain, mental and physical and the drug that really helps manage her pain throughout the day, Lyrica costs over $425 per month for 90 pills, that coupled with the $540 (minus $220 ACA subsidy) in insurance premiums, makes it very unaffordable even for a family earning with a combined income close to $65,000 a year.
Recently I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and my doctor prescribed me a injectable medication called Victoza, which I have been taking for two weeks now using the free samples the doctor gave me. I am starting to run low, 15 days supply left so I looked up the cost of the drug using my insurance company’s medication cost calculator and for 30 days supply it will cost $825. This is obviously not affordable, a months supply of medication should not cost more than I pay in rent each month.
So to summarize; two drugs plus healthcare premium will cost us $1570, that’s about 35% of our net income going to insurance and drug companies. It’s no wonder that so many people either under-dose or go without medication in the USA. In my personal view, it is unacceptable for a rich western country to allow people to go without essential medication because of the lack of drug pricing regulation.
First of all, please read my previous blog article where my 10 year old has betrayed our trust many times in regard to obeying bans on video games and technology over the last four weeks because of previous issues with behavior including deliberately inputting my pin number to buy games/apps on his Roku box, which he as now lost and taking his sister’s Android tablet and using it after his bedtime.
Today, I catch him using his sister’s tablet again, defying the ban on electronics, not only that, I find that he had set up his own Gmail account, which I have now deleted and he installed an additional four Rovio games, hiding them in a folder with the original Angry Birds as the folder cover icon. Additionally, he had managed to sign his five year old sister upto Facebook, which I found out about because of the Facebook welcome message on my daughter’s Email account I set up on her tablet.
As I cannot trust him to live by our rules, he now has lost all electronic privileges for the rest of 2015. We are even considering a total ban on video games and computers permanently as this video game and electronics obsession continues to cause him to make bad decisions, lying, cheating and even committing fraud in the case of using my pin number to purchase games on the Roku box. This weekend, he is going to spend it in his room without any entertainment apart from his books.
In addition to this, we have found out by looking in his school bag that he has not been doing his homework, and even more stupidly, completed some homework and didn’t hand it in. We found letters and notices going back as far as March 2014, and some of it could have helped him with his autism, but that avenue to now closed because we missed the deadline. Which is frustrating as we have lost our Medicaid funding for him, so he now gets no therapy because of Sam Brownback’s KanCare bullshit!
Update [Jan, 12 2015, 23:22]: At this point we are at a loss, this evening my son got busted again using his sister’s tablet. He had turned down the volume and was hiding the tablet underneath his comforter. My wife noticed he had something under the comforter, at first he pulled out a cushion saying that’s all he had, but when we approached he suddenly admitted that he had the tablet. Now we’re at the point where he has lost his electronics privileges indefinitely as this obsession is so incredibly unhealthy. It’s time to try to channel his energies into something non-technology related!
Update [Jan, 19 2015, 15:06]: After talking with my wife and mother-in-law, we have come to a compromise, my son will get to play for four hours during Saturday and Sunday, he can choose to split that time up or use it all at once. Plus he has the option to earn two hours on Friday evening by helping out with chores, which he is not good at, he never offers to help. For example, today I washed my car and my five year old daughter was immediately out helping me while my son sat there watching TV, sulking because it’s Monday and he can not play video games or use computers Monday thru Thursday.
This week has been eventful to say the least; on Tuesday, our medical insurance company, Coventry Healthcare of Kansas doubled billed us; so instead of $320, they billed us for $640. When we renewed our insurance through the healthcare marketplace, we were prompted to make the first payment by card, which I did on December 23, 2014. A payment came out on the December 31, which I assumed was the card payment, but no, that was an automatic withdrawal, the card payment came out on January, 6 2015, 13 days after I made the debit card payment, which resulted in our rent check bouncing!
The healthcare marketplace website did not explain that if you are renewing, instead of changing providers that the initial card payment is not required, which is why we have been put in this situation, but 13 days to process a freaking card payment is unacceptable, someone at Coventry Healthcare dropped the ball. What’s worse is Coventry Healthcare’s attitude, they simply said our money would be refunded in 14 days, with no empathy for the situation we have of not having enough funds to pay our rent. Our rent check bounced costing us $32, which thankfully my bank, Meritrust refunded that as they could see it was a clear double billing issue and we had funds to cover the rent 24 hours later.
However there is an upside to this situation, as a result I was offered to apply for a credit card to avoid these situations in future and surprisingly the wife and I were accepted for a $2500 credit card. Furthermore, while applying for the credit card, the Meritrust representative, Sam asked if we wanted to also apply for refinancing of our car loan, which I did and our interest rate dropped from 11% to 5.9%, saving us $53 a month. Now for those who use Credit Karma to monitor their score, don’t rely on it, my score was 10 points lower and my wife’s score was 38 points higher than Credit Karma suggests.
But, my day was turned upside down when a USD259 school bus decided to drive down the middle of the road, forcing me into a snow bank. Thankfully, my mother-in-law came to the rescue with her AAA gold card membership, and the AAA guy managed to drag me out of the snow bank and thankfully there was no damage to the car despite being buried seven inches in the snow bank. I think that it’s time that we got our own AAA membership, although our car loan does come with tow service, although I have not been impressed with loan/insurance provided tow service, hence why I cancelled.
So overall, it’s been more positive than negative, but it’s been interesting to say the least. We have gone from possibly losing $64 in bank fees because our rent check would have bounced twice and also not having any money for essentials like fuel for the cars for almost two weeks to having a $2500 credit card and a good saving on our car loan and almost two months grace to make the first payment, although we’ll pay it like we have been previously to get the balance paid sooner than 72 months.
Some of my readers will know that I have an autistic son, who is now 10 years old and in recent months we have seen some concerning behaviors from him, which potentially can land him in legal trouble.
About three weeks ago, we caught him playing his PS Vita in his room at nearly 1am when he should have been sleeping, which earned him a 10 day ban from video games. That particular evening he went to bed early of his own accord, which is a rare occurrence, and in hindsight should have been a red flag. He had been feeling tired during the day, which would correlate with being up playing video games.
Stupidly just days before his ban would have been over on Christmas day, when he would get more games/gadgets, he decided to spend $11 of our money by purchasing several apps on his Roku box without permission. I was ready to get on the phone to Roku and complain about allowing purchases without a pin number when my son admitted that he had been inputting my pin to buy apps/games.
This resulted in what some may consider a harsh punishment, but he was not allowed to use his new Kurio Extreme tablet and Disney Infinity 2.0 game which we had bought him for Christmas, he will now have to wait until New Years Day to use these two presents. I am hoping that having to wait for his new gadgets will make him adjust his behavior in future. It’s not like he was unaware of what he was doing, he was more concerned with how I found out about his misdemeanors than feeling any remorse.
Going back to the late night PS Vita playing, it makes sense now, having my pin would allow him to override restrictions I had set. Obviously, I have changed my pin number on all devices. There was no real harm done this time, but weeks before this, he racked up several hundred dollars worth of in-app purchases on my mother-in-law’s Kindle, which at the time we believed it was accidental, but now I am starting to wonder if it was intentional. Suffice to say this behavior is deeply concerning to us.
Update #1 [Dec, 31 2014, 21:52]: Literally 30 minutes after I finished writing this blog article, my son got himself in even more trouble. He threw a metal Hot Wheels car at his five year old sister because she was messing with his cars. The car hit her just below her left eye and has left a nasty bruise. What annoys me more than anything is that he lied to us about it, then later admitted it, but the scary thing is that he said that he meant to hurt her and shows no sign of remorse. I understand that lack of empathy is an issue with autism, but deliberately trying to hurt his sister is troubling to say the least!
Update #2 [Jan, 4 2015, 21:31]: The wife and I decided to give our son a break and commute his added week of punishment and allow him to have all his games, computers and tablets back as a good will gesture for the New Year under the proviso that he acts right in the future or else he would face a 3 month ban on all electronics. And he barely made it more 36 hours before getting in more trouble.
After we allowed him to play for more than five hours on the PS3; later on the 2nd of January, he took his sisters Android tablet and hid it in his room, with charger and HIS headphones plugged into it. He had clearly been playing on it and intended to play after going to bed, which he had done before. He lied to us initially and tried to block my wife from coming into his room looking for the tablet, before claiming to find it behind his bed, and later said that he had it in his room so his sister could find it.
He now has a three month ban from electronics because of being selfish taking his sister’s tablet; after he turned his nose up at the $180 Kurio Extreme tablet because of the time and content restrictions I had placed on it and for lying to us for the umpteenth time just in the last 30 days. He has shown time and time again that he can not being trusted, you just have to read above for evidence of that. So yes, I will place restrictions on gadgets to limit his usage as I clearly can not trust him to stay within the set rules voluntarily, we didn’t raise him to be this way, where’s he getting these behaviors from?
Just today, he kept sneaking up behind me while I worked at my computer and stood there silently before I noticed him. Reading what I am writing for work and personal reasons, which from his recent behavior I can only assume that he is hoping to see me input a password or pin code that he can use to circumvent time/usage restrictions. Not that he can use the codes as I have his gadgets locked away!
Last night I decided that I would buy Grand Turismo 6 as an early Christmas present for myself and boy do I wish that I went to the local game store instead. I visit the Playstation Store, find Gran Turismo 6, purchase and start the 15GB download and the system says that it will take 121 minutes to download.
I return to the PS3 after 2 hours and it says it’s only 24% complete, I make the decision to just let it download overnight as it’s clear that it will take 8+ hours. I come back to the PS3 the next day and hit install, which takes another 2+ hours. Finally I am thinking, yay I can play GT6; but no, there are 14 large updates, so I was looking at another 2 hours of download/install at least. At this point, I had to leave to complete my Christmas shopping, so I left it downloading while I went out for a few hours.
Upon arriving home at roughly 9pm, I eagerly loaded up GT6 and it says “preparing update”, I think what the f***, but let it go. After a few minutes it says installing, but 10 second after that it says installation failed, I press X twice and the update started over, with the same installation failed result. After doing this half dozen times, I gave up and searched Google, but the suggestions didn’t work because I had not created a game save file on the system as I had not managed to successfully launched GT6. So my only option is to delete and start the whole download and patch process again.
It really seems that Sony don’t care about their Playstation Store customers; they seriously need to upgrade their infrastructure so people can get the benefit of fast downloads, seriously what’s the point of having on demand game downloads when it take over half a day to download/install/patch?
Secondly; why the hell do they not patch the games on their servers to the latest versions to avoid the additional update and patch downloads once the game is downloaded and installed, a lengthy process in itself. It’s not like it’s a disc on the shelf, would you buy Windows XP and install Vista, then 7 and finally 8? I know it’s an extreme example, but it’s basically the same thing, damnit Sony, pre-patch!
The end result is this; I will never buy anything or recommend anyone use the Playstation Store again, it’s far too much hassle, having to wait 12+ hours from purchase to play the game is too long for me.
In recent years it has become increasingly apparent that the US government is not representing the interests of the people that voted for them, but instead furthering the interests of banks, pharmaceutical companies and mega-corporations. And the latest government spending bill dubbed the “CRomnibus” just goes to prove that fact with lots of Christmas presents for banks and politicians.
In simple terms, there was a bunch of last minute inclusions in the bill that allows for banks to recklessly invest money and expect taxpayers to bail them out when it goes wrong. Just like during the 2008 financial crisis where banks were bailed out because of their FDIC insured status. A status that was revoked in the aftermath of the crisis so banks couldn’t be bailed out with public money if they made bad investments under the “too big to fail” mentality. That provision has now been repealed in this bill, so tax payers will be on the hook for bailing out these mega banks when inevitably they screw the pooch and lose all their our money. And, this addition was written by… mega-bank, CitiGroup.
Additionally politicians will be allowed to accept 10 times the current amount in donations from individuals, no doubt these payments will come from CEO’s of banks, pharma and corporations. This needs to stop NOW; Americans should not stand for this amount of corruption, we elect these people to represent us; the people of the US of A, not the 2%-ers, remove corporate money (influence) from politics, let’s face it lobbying is a legal name for bribery. Yet we accept this as normal, back home in the UK, many years ago there was a “cash for questions” scandal which was immediately stamped out because it was considered bribery and corruption, which is exactly the same as lobbying in the USA.
Big pharma have managed to buy enough support in Washington to defund legalization of marijuana in Washington state, the same state that 70% of the electorate voted to legalize the drug. Why is big pharma against the legalization of pot? Because Marijuana is well know to act as a pain reliever and big pharma stands to lose billions as people use it as a natural alternative to expensive pain pills.
According to represent.us, $479m has been allocated for the purchase of F-35 Lightning II warplanes, which the pentagon did not order. Of course, inevitably to pay for these corporate concessions, funding for essentials services are being cut, most notably, WIC funding, which millions of people rely on to survive, the people that work for corporate giant, Walmart for example. Politicians will also get a $1000 subsidy to pay for their car, enough to buy a top of the range Mercedes or BMW, SERIOUSLY? these people get paid more than enough to afford their own car payment, absolutely disgusting.
Represent Us’ Video Explaining what has been hidden in the bill!
After a stupidly long and drawn out affair, McLaren have finally decided on who will partner Fernando Alonso in 2015 and maybe beyond. There has been no announcement of contract length or salary for Jenson Button, all we know for sure is that he will drive for McLaren in 2015 alongside 2 x WDC Alonso.
It has been widely assumed that Fernando Alonso had signed for McLaren back in September; despite McLaren and Alonso’s coyness on the subject, neither driver nor team confirming or denying it. 2014 drivers Button and Kevin Magnussen were left hanging by McLaren with no announcement made at the season finale in Abu Dhabi with Ron Dennis saying there would be no announcement until December.
It’s widely known that Ron Dennis was in favour of ditching Button for his rookie Magnussen; but Dennis did not have enough shares to push through his driver choice at the MTC board meeting on December 4, 2014, which broke up with no agreement meaning that both drivers had to wait for a decision. Maybe Dennis was hoping that Button would walk away to pursue new challenges elsewhere?
I would assume that a decision was finally made at another board meeting on December 10, 2014 with Sky Sports putting out a tweet saying a driver decision will be announced tomorrow (Thursday, December 11, 2014). And here we are; Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso for 2015 with Kevin Magnussen remaining on board as test/reserve driver, maybe to get a race seat for McLaren in 2016?
I do have to say that it concerns me that McLaren talk more about their history with Honda rather than the future of McLaren with Honda and their two drivers for 2015 in their official press release. Past glories mean absolutely nothing in 2015; it’s been 17 years since McLaren’s last constructors title and 6 years since their last drivers title and the driver’s title prior to that was another 9 years previous.
Personally, after the way the drivers were treated by McLaren and more specifically Ron Dennis, I was kinda hoping that Jenson would get the nod; only for Jenson to say “thanks, but no thanks, I have signed to race in WEC”. Which would mean Dennis would get his wish to have Kevin Magnussen partner Alonso, but at least Jenson will have had the last laugh at Ron’s expense after all the digs from Dennis.
The two recent Grand Jury rulings deciding to not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Mike Brown and Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the outlawed chokehold death of Eric Garner has sparked mass protests across the country, which so far has been peaceful, but how much longer will the peace last as white police officers continue to get away with murdering black men? How Pantaleo managed to avoid being indicted I will never know, the whole event was caught on video. Pantaleo was seen using the illegal chokehold to bring Garner down, which the coroner later ruled as the cause of death.
It’s not only these two cases, in the last three months, we have seen two more cases of black men being gunned down by white police officers, one in St Louis a few days after the Mike Brown shooting. Kajieme Powell was shot dead by two officers, again caught on video. Powell was well known in the community to have mental health issues, but it seems that these officers did not know that, community policing at it’s worst. There were other non-lethal options, but the officers got out of the car with guns drawn and I can’t help think the outcome would have been different if Powell was white.
The other case resulted in the death of John Crawford III, while talking on his cellphone holding a BB replica rifle which he had picked up in-store at a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio. Security camera footage clearly shows that Crawford did nothing illegal, he held the replica firearm over his shoulder and by his side, at no point did he point the weapon at anyone, like the 911 caller claimed. Officers stormed in and after a brief verbal warning, shots were fired and Crawford was dead on the floor. And again, the officers involved were not indited by the grand jury and one of the officers is back on duty.
The attitude I have seen from people commenting on news stories and videos of the deaths has been “another black criminal off the street” and worse. Clearly racism is still a massive problem in the US and that seems to be as prevalent within the police force as in the general public. Darren Wilson shoots and kills a young black man, with excessive force [in my opinion] and gets rewarded with $500,000 raised for him by white conservative Christians, this says a hell of a lot about America in general. It still seems that the white majority see black lives as less important, seeing all black people as criminals.
If the federal government does not take up these cases, we want more than words, Eric Holder, actually prosecute these officers, send a message to police all over the US that this can not continue to happen, we will see a full-on race war and more bloodshed with innocent officers being targeted.
What message does seeing officers kill black men and get away with it do? It says that it’s fine to shoot and kill young black men without any seeming consequence. Clearly better training is needed, to be able to assess the situation and use appropriate force, a taser should be the first choice, not the gun, especially against an unarmed person as was the situation in three of the four cases in this write-up.
You can bet your bottom dollar that if a black officer shot and killed a young white man in the same circumstances, he would be in the courtroom before you can say indictment. I find Jamil Smith’s tweet very apt, “Benefiting from white privilege is automatic. Defending white privilege is a choice“.
Lewis Hamilton took victory and his second world drivers title at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last weekend as his only title rival and team mate Nico Rosberg suffered hybrid power issues, being reduced to running on his V6T motor only, losing 160HP and fell backwards out of the top 10.
Hamilton got off to a dream start, rocketing off the line past his pole sitting team mate into turn 1, while Jenson Button jumped two places to fourth after being promoted to sixth place by virtue of both Red Bulls’ being disqualified from qualifying for an illegally flexing front wing. Williams’ Valteri Bottas had a terrible start, dropping five places from third on the grid while Kevin Magnussen bogged down, dropping back to 11th before making contact with Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, dropping back to 13th.
Despite starting from the pitlane, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo finished the race in fourth place utilizing his trademark overtaking skills going wheel to wheel with a number of drivers while team mate Sebastian Vettel could only manage eighth place in his final race for Red Bull before switching to Ferrari for 2015. It’s safe to say that Ricciardo put the current world champion in the shade in 2014.
Williams duo Felipe Massa and Bottas finished the race in second and third, scoring the highest team points haul in the history of F1, 66 points because of Bernie’s stupid double points finale idea. Massa drove a pretty flawless race to bring his FW36 home in second, benefiting from Rosberg’s power unit issues, while Bottas made an excellent recovery to finish on the third step of the podium. A great end to Williams’ season, which makes me very happy, it’s no secret that I have a soft spot for Williams.
McLaren’s Jenson Button finished what is likely to be his last F1 race in fifth place after initially running in fourth place. Team mate Magnussen never recovered from his first lap incidents finishing just outside of the points in 11th place. I’ll be sad to see JB leave F1, but hopefully he’ll join Mark Webber in World Endurance Championship. I doubt that Ron Dennis will pick Button over Magnussen to partner Alonso in 2015; but stranger things have happened, assuming JB doesn’t tell Dennis where to go!
It was a good day for Force India, Nico Hulkenberg drove from 14th on the grid to finish sixth ahead of his team mate Sergio Perez in seventh place. Despite the 28 points scored for Force India, Button’s fifth place kept McLaren ahead in the constructors championship. McLaren will be disappointed to have been fighting with Force India rather than frontrunners Mercedes, Williams and Red Bull in 2014.
Ferrari ended their hugely disappointing season with Fernando Alonso finishing two seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in ninth and 10th respectively. Hardly the way that Alonso would have liked to end his Ferrari career, but despite Alonso’s obvious talent, the F14T has been a real dog of a car all season, Alonso is good, but he’s not a miracle worker. I hope Ferrari go away and come back stronger in 2015.
Finally, we come to Lewis Hamilton, who I believe had it all under control despite Rosberg seemingly reeling in the Briton before his power unit issues and later Massa closing in on Hamilton in the final laps, closing to within 2.5 seconds at the chequered flag. I could say Hamilton only won because of the dominant Mercedes, like some claimed of Sebastian Vettel in the past four years, but I will give Lewis props as he drove brilliantly to come back twice this season to snatch the title from Rosberg.
Caterham crowdfunded their way to the Abu Dhabi grid, but were also rans as usual. I believe the only reason that they came back in Abu Dhabi was to steal Marussia’s prize money as Marussia failed to finish the season meaning both Sauber and Caterham finish ahead in the constructors standings despite Marussia scoring points in 2014 thanks to Jules Bianchi’s ninth place in Monaco… Forza Jules.
2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Results
Nico Rosberg won the Brazilian Grand Prix after team mate and title rival Lewis Hamilton’s error allowed him to cruise home and collect 25 valuable points against Hamilton’s 18 points ahead of the season finale in Abu Dhabi which has been dubbed Abu Dhouble because of the double points on offer.
Mercedes were once again untouchable despite their claims that Williams could give them a run for their money. Rosberg and Hamilton got off the line well and that was the closest any other driver got to the duo. Positions 1 through 5 remained unchanged, while Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel made a bad start allowing Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso to move up one place to 6th and 7th while Vettel fell 2 places to 8th immediately in front of team mate Daniel Ricciardo who maintained his position.
Felipe Massa picked up a 5 second stop/go penalty for speeding in the pitlane when changing from option to prime tyre on lap 6, which gave me hope, being a Jenson Button fan that JB would be on for a podium finish. But it was not to be, despite Massa driving through the McLaren pit box by mistake, the Brazilian still managed to hold onto the final podium position leaving Button out in the cold in fourth!
Massa’s Williams team mate Valteri Bottas also had issues which meant he finished in 10th place after starting from fourth on the grid. During his second pit stop, there was some sort of issue with the Finn’s seatbelt which took some time to correct, dropping him back to 15th place while the high tyre wear at Interlagos limited his ability to use his Williams inherent speed to move further up the field.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel recovered from his bad start to finish in fifth place, following Jenson Button through as he passed Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, Button upto fourth and Vettel fifth. Fernando Alonso, after a battle with his Ferrari team mate also passed the Finn for sixth place, Raikkonen eventually finishing in seventh place, while Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo DNF’ed with suspension failure.
McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen struggled with tyre wear all race long eventually finishing the race in ninth place down two places from his grid position. Nico Hulkenberg had a decent day in Brazil taking the chequered flag in eighth place, up four places from where he started ahead of the recovering Bottas.
As Brazilian Grand Prix go, I thought that this one was rather dull, not very much drama at all, but this result does set up a great finale in Abu Dhabi in two weeks time. If Nico Rosberg wins, Lewis Hamilton will need to finish second to claim the world drivers title, if the Briton finishes third or lower, the title goes to Rosberg should he win the race. I hope that for Bernie Ecclestone’s sake, this double points race doesn’t result in Hamilton having the title snatched away, the Hamiltonians will be out for blood!
2014 Brazilian Grand Prix Results