Archive for the ‘In the Media’ Category

E*Trade Financial to charge me extra for flood insurance that I can’t purchase myself

On 4/24/2013, E*Trade Financial sent me a snail mail letter that arrived just at the beginning of my three-week vacation around the world.  I know that statement won’t make you feel sorry for me, but it is why I’m just now getting through all my snail mail, most of which is junk.

E*Trade Financial owns, or at least puts their logo on, my home line of credit.  The first line of the letter they sent me reads, “Our records indicate that the flood insurance policy insuring certain structures (“Structures”) located at the above noted Property Address expired or canceled on 04/24/13 at 12:01 a.m (“Expiration Date”). That is a blatant lie.  I know it is a lie because I live in a condo and according to the insurance agent who sold me my homeowner’s insurance and whom I discussed this with just a couple of months ago, I can not insure the Structure because it is owned by the Home Owner’s Association (HOA), so I do not have flood insurance on it. And I know that the HOA does not currently have a flood insurance policy because I am the treasurer and I signed our insurance policy today for when it renews in the next month. So the very first line of the letter I received is a lie because there was no flood insurance coverage to expire or cancel. E*Trade Financial is just trying to cover up their failure to ensure the property had flood insurance.

Two sentences later reads, “If we do not receive a response from you within 45 days of the date of this notice, a flood insurance policy will be purchased on your behalf, at your expense, and the premiums will be added to the principal balance of your existing loan.”  A few paragraphs later reads, “If you do not respond within 45 days from the date of this notice by submitting a Declaration page from a valid effective insurance policy to us, the required insurance coverage may, at our option, be obtained for you, at your expense. If necessary, we may place $49,690.98 of coverage on the Structure, which is the amount of flood insurance we believe would protect our interest.

They continue with my cost, specifying, “Flood Insurance Premium is approximately: $522.21″

How can they do this? As I’ve said, I talked to my insurance agent and he can’t sell me a flood insurance policy to cover the Structure because I don’t own the Structure, so how can E*Trade Financial buy a policy on my behalf and then charge me for it when I can’t buy one myself? This smells like a total scam between E*Trade Financial and the insurance company that is selling them the policy.  The insurance company makes money on a policy that is bogus, and E*Trade Financial makes money because, as they say, “The insurance premiums will be added to the principal balance of your loan or line of credit.…On installment loans, your current monthly payments will not change; however, your final payment will include the premium amounts added during the life of the loan. On lines of credit, the flood insurance premium amount is added to the principal balance of your account.” So they make money on the increased interest.

On the top of the second page, in bold, capital letters, “THESE RATES ARE CONSIDERABLY HIGHER THAN THOSE THAT COULD BE OBTAINED BY PURCHASING A POLICY ON YOUR OWN. IF WE OBTAIN INSURANCE FOR YOU, YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE COST OF THE INSURANCE AND YOU WILL BE CHARGED FOR THE TOTAL PREMIUM AMOUNT. *OUR FLOOD INSURANCE COVERS ONLY YOUR BUILDING AND DOES NOT COVER YOUR PERSONAL PROPERTY OR CONTENTS.*

So not only are they going to buy insurance for me that my insurance agent says I can’t possibly buy on my own, but they are going to charge me a higher rate for it!

The only options they give me are to provide proof of flood insurance coverage or challenge the Special Flood Hazard Area determination, which I know I’d lose because I’m in a flood zone.

This isn’t just me.  I know of other people who live in condos getting letters like this from their mortgage lenders. How many of them have had to pay? What do we do until the HOAs buy flood insurance? How do we fight the big banks?

Tragedies

Today’s school shooting in Newtown, CT affected me more than the others have. Previous mass shootings have happened in places like Aurora, Columbine, and Virginia Tech. Places I looked up on a map and didn’t know existed until they were plastered on the news.

Today was different. The school I used to teach at is twenty minutes away from Newtown. A college friend is from Newtown. I’ve stopped for gas in Newtown. My elementary school-aged nieces live forty minutes away from Newtown.

I’ve expected all day to hear that someone I know knows someone affected. It is a small world. So far, I haven’t heard anything, which is good, but there are a lot of families suffering tonight and I feel for them.

I also feel for the brother and the father and the other family members of the shooter. This has got to be hard on them, especially when the news reported it was the wrong brother first. How many lives does the media have to ruin? I stuck to listening to NPR today because they had less rumor mill crap than the rest of the media outlets, but even they got it wrong today.

When will the media realize that being first to report lies is not honorable?

And how close to home does this have to get before there is real gun control?

Black Friday

I can not tell a lie.  I did not even consider going shopping for Black Friday.  I haven’t shopped on Black Friday in years.  It isn’t just Black Friday, I hate shopping.  Black Friday is just the epitome of the worst parts of shopping.  The worst parts of consumerism really.  When I shop, I see stores filled with cheap products targeting people who are easily susceptible to advertising.  Then I think about where these products are made, in factories in China, because there, they can carelessly toss pollution into the streams and air, which is harming us all.  And there are low wages for the employees building the products, but also the ones selling the products here in the states.  Big box stores who pay as close to minimum wage as they can get and keep their employees hours down so they don’t have to offer health care.  Because really, who wants their employees to be able to buy food, gas or bus fare to get to work, and be healthy and able to work more.  Walmart sure doesn’t, and neither do other stores that care more about their bottom line and their CEO and executive salaries than they do about their workers.  And while Walmart is underpaying their workers, we are all supporting them on welfare and other entitlements so that one family can become billionaires on our taxpayer dime.  I’d rather that the people who shop at Walmart support the workers with higher prices.  I don’t want to support their habits for buying cheap, poorly-made products they don’t need that are polluting the earth while also paying for the people selling them the junk.

I believe

I believe in women having the right to make decisions for ourselves, for women getting equal pay, for my gay friends to love whomever they want because I sure as hell know how hard it is to find love, for my friends and family coming home from foreign wars, for global warming and the environment not being a joke, for health care for all, for help to the poor because I needed it as a kid, and for education grants because I needed those too! Now I can afford to pay back those benefits I used and I’m willing to do so.

For those reasons, I know who I need to vote for!

If you don’t yet know, or even if you think you already know, ask yourself, who do you side with?

Dear New Hampshire

Your congress voted themselves both bad at math and reading comprehension.

The National Cancer Institute from the National Institute of Health says, “a late age at the time of birth of her first full-term baby” increases the chance of a woman having breast cancer. Mathematically, this is not the same as saying,”full-term pregnancy reduces a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer” as you state in your congressionally-mandated anti-abortion brochure. Full-term pregnancy earlier in life gives women normal odds at having breast cancer, not a reduced risk.

The NCI also says, “a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer increase as she gets older”, so why don’t you give all women mandated brochures on anti-aging techniques while you are at it?

And the NCI doesn’t list abortion as a risk factor. Actually, “They concluded that having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.”

Maybe you should spend more time on math education and less time trying to control women.

Oil and Capitalism: The Republican Party Salad Dressing of Choice

Many Republicans think of themselves as capitalists.  I’m talking about the people who exclaim the virtues of the free market.  They expound upon the need for laissez-faire economics.  They cry out against government regulation.

Until you mention gas prices.

Then, without hesitation, these same people will complain that gas prices are too high.  And in one statement, everything they have claimed about capitalism flies out the door.  They think that the government should do something about it.

Sounds kind of socialist to me.

Oil drilling and production in the United States is at its highest in eight years and gas is cheaper than the start of the recession under Bush.  We are actually exporting more oil than we are using. The oil companies are making record profits and still getting $4B in tax breaks. If you want to blame someone for high gas prices, why not ask the oil companies how they are making so much money off of you.

Oil is not a finite resource.  There is always more oil being made, however, it is believed that it takes millions of years for oil to form.  Thus, the more we take out of the earth at a higher rate than the earth can make it, eventually the oil supply will dwindle drastically and we will have to go through more effort to find it and refine it.

However, we Americans are more dependent on oil than any other nation.  This is what the current usage of oil looks like today for the top five consumer countries.

Image

As you can see, the United States, which is the third most populated country, uses almost twice as much oil as China and India combined, while the population of China and India is eight times that of the US.  As you can imagine, both of these countries are increasing their demand for oil as their population demands the same conveniences we are afforded here in the US.  While the demand for oil in the US has actually decreased , in 2001, China was the third largest consumer and India was the seventh.  Both China and India are demanding more oil.  Another decade and this chart will change again.

That brings us to supply and demand.  Capitalism is built on this theory.  As supply diminishes and demand rises, prices go up.  In a free market, the goal of the company is to make larger and larger profits and keep its shareholders happy with increases in stock price or dividends.  So the more demand, the higher the price the companies can charge.  Same for dependence.  The more you depend on oil, the more companies will charge for it because you can’t quit.  This is great for the bottom line of the companies.  They can produce less, charge more, and the shareholders rejoice.  And capitalism shines.

However, it isn’t that simple because production has kept up with demand.  So the laws of supply and demand are being taunted by another evil.  Oil Futures.

It seems that we mostly have Wall Street to thank for our higher gas prices.  Before the mortgage market tanked, they were already looking for the next big bet, so they started selling oil futures and ran the price of oil up.  From How Stuff Works,

As a result of the artificial oil market, the average price per barrel of crude oil increased from $31.61 in July 2004 to $137.11 in July 2008 . The average cost for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in the United States grew from $1.93 to $4.09 over the same period .

If we want our gas prices to go down, then we need more government regulation to curb the oil futures market.    The Dodd-Frank Act passed a year and a half ago attempts to do this, however Republicans have continuously tried to kill the act instead of doing something to ensure gas prices decline.  But like I’ve said, the Republican party is pro-capitalism and anti-regulation, so there is no reason for them to want gas prices to go down.  If gas prices go down, then the oil companies don’t make the big profits.  Four of the top ten most profitable companies in the world are oil companies.  One is a natural gas company.  This is capitalism at its finest.

One of the mantras of the Republican party is, “Drill, baby, drill.”  Yet we are now exporting more oil than we import.  And gas prices still haven’t gone down due to oil futures, and because our consumption of oil may have decreased, but the demand worldwide has increased.  Thus, economically, it makes a lot more sense for us to slow our production, use up the supply of oil from other countries while it is still relatively cheap, and then parcel out the last bit to the world from our reserves slowly and at the highest price possible.

In conclusion, US demand is decreasing, but more populated countries are taking up the slack.  Wall Street is still trying to suck the poor people dry by betting on our future.  The Republicans want to continue giving four billion of our tax dollars away to the oil companies instead of investing in a replacement source of energy.

I leave you with this quote from President Obama at Nashua Community College in New Hampshire,

Let’s put every single member of Congress on record: You can stand with oil companies, or you can stand with the American people. You can keep subsidizing a fossil fuel that’s been getting taxpayer dollars for a century, or you can place your bets on a clean energy future.

 

The costs of not covering birth control

Yesterday, in a comment, ricewind brought up that small companies might not be able to afford to add contraception to their plan. So let’s look at risk assessment and cost.

Here is what could happen if I wasn’t on the pill:

The company would have to pay me a sick day every month because I’d be in too much pain to work. Although now that I already lost one ovary, this would only be every other month, so they’d get a bargain.

Once I did lose the other ovary to an ovarian cyst, which is highly likely since it happened already, that is an operation with three days of hospital stay which would probably help increase premium. Plus I’d be out of work at least two to four weeks. I’ve already done this, so I know.

Then, because I’m not on the pill anymore and my hormones kick into overdrive, my desire to have sex returns as well as my biological clock ticking so loud that you could hear it across the country, I decide to have kids, so I
– get a surrogate egg, or maybe I froze one of mine and get in-vitro fertilization treatments. That may or may not be covered but the result still is.
– get preggers before I lose the ovary in a last hurrah effort. No cost to the company for this part. I can do it on my own. Although I might just go to a sperm bank. Maybe that is covered if in-vitro is covered.
– I could adopt, which sometimes the company helps to cover.

Any way, insurance is now paying for
– my prenatal care
– the cost of the birth which might require a c-section because of previous operations.

And the company is paying for
– my maternity leave plus finding others to do my job while I’m gone.
– more sick days than I used to so I can care for my child
– another dependent on the insurance plan

I am not against people having kids, and I am not against reproductive services or families being covered by insurance. I have family and friends and coworkers who have done all of these things and I’d like to think I might some day. But if any company wants to bring up the cost of birth control as why they shouldn’t offer it, they should know it will cost them a lot more not to cover it.

And let’s not forget, if my employer is not providing contraception because of their moral objection to it, I will be raising my child as an agnostic democrat and sending them to a left-wing, liberal college. So bringing another child into this overpopulated world may not be what they ultimately intended in the long run.

Health Care Compromise

I’ve been thinking a lot about this health care issue. Especially since Limbaugh and O’Reilly got in on the deal and called people like me words like “slut”, “prostitute”, and called for us to post videos of our sex on the Internet. Well, if I were actually having sex, I MIGHT NOT BE SO ANGRY!

Not only do they misunderstand how contraception works (maybe their women should explain it to them), they also think we are asking the government to pay for it. We aren’t.

We are asking that the health insurance that we pay for out of our own pocket, and through our employer on behalf of the work we are doing, cover contraception. However, then religious groups got into the picture and insisted that, as employers, they be exempt because they are morally against contraception.

But I am the one paying for the insurance with my own money and my hard work, so why should my employer get a say in what my insurance company pays? Well, it is because it is the employer that spends the money negotiating a group rate for the insurance and they want to pay the insurance (and vicariously me) as little as possible. So they think they have a right to be involved in my medical treatments.

They don’t.

So here is my proposed compromise. Religious institutions should be exempt from providing contraception in their negotiated, group-rate insurance plans. However, they should be required to allow employees to opt-out based on religious differences, and then the employer should be required to increase the employee’s wages by the amount that the employer pays for that employee’s health insurance plus an additional amount to cover the group rate discount they pay so the employee can afford to buy insurance on their own.

That is it. The employer and employee can both opt out for moral reasons.

Why religion should stay out of my contraception

Recently, the Obama administration has been getting heat for part of the health bill that requires employers to provide contraception at no cost. Religious groups have been fighting back saying that they shouldn’t have to do this because it is against their beliefs. The bill states that they must if they serve women of any faith. I fully support the Obama administration in their efforts to improve womens’ health.

I have been on the pill for eighteen years. But it isn’t why you think.

Yes, originally it was to prevent pregnancy. Yes, I had sex outside of marriage. It happened. I’m not ashamed. But it isn’t the reason I’ve been using the pill this whole time.

One warm, summer morning in Connecticut, I was feeling perfectly fine, except for the dread that I was going to be in a lot of pain in a few hours after surgery. Twelve years later, I still have a five-inch scar, and a lot of money spent on birth control to remind me.

Since age seventeen, every other month for a day, I’d be in excruciating pain. The first time it happened was my chemistry midterm. I wrote my name on my paper, I tried to read the question through the searing sensation in my abdomen, but I couldn’t. I was a shy, quiet kid, not one who would ever disrupt a classroom. That day I stood up without saying a word and walked out the door, letting it slam as I hobbled to the bathroom.

A while later, I managed to get to the nurse’s office. I’m forever grateful for my mother picking me up. She stopped by the chemistry class and picked up my calculator and books. And she took me home to comfort me, while I felt shame for having disrupted the test, and embarrassment that I’d have to retake it at another time. But teenage girls and their cramps will happen. At least that is what I thought it was.

For the next eight years, every other month, I would writhe in pain for a day. My cats would stare at me, wondering who would feed them when I was dead. And I would curl up in a ball hoping to pass out and praying that the cats wouldn’t start feeding on me while I slept.

Two months is a long time. By the time it happened again, I’d forgotten about the last time. It went undiagnosed by my college OBGYN who gave me an exam and filled my first prescription for the pill.

Five years later, I had an exam. The doctor asked if I was pregnant. I told her I was certain that I was not. Then she said, “You did say that you have male partners, right?”

My doctor just questioned if I am a lesbian. Could this get any worse?

Yes it can. She made me take a test I hadn’t studied for. It was negative for pregnancy. So I had an ultrasound a couple days later. The results came in. I had a ten-centimeter cyst encasing an ovary.

The morning of surgery, I signed papers that I was an organ donor and asked that they not take anything I needed or was still using. They made me sign papers that said if they found the cyst to be cancerous, they could take out whatever they wanted. It was a lot to ask of a twenty-five year old.

The doctor removed the cyst and an ovary. There was no cancer. I was thankful for that. And I was grateful that my mother quit her temp job to care for me the first week. Meine Schwester moved in the next. I couldn’t have done it without them.

So what does this have to do with the pill and Obamacare? Well, it turns out that one of the best treatments for preventing ovarian cysts is the pill. So regardless of my need to use the pill for contraception, the real reason I use it, even when I don’t seemingly need it, is because it keeps me from doubling over in pain for a day every other month. Or possibly dying.

I’ve had to pay hundreds of dollars a year for a drug to prevent ovarian cysts that the Catholic Church and other religious organizations don’t want to provide to anyone.

I’m grateful that I’ve had doctors and hospitals willing to prescribe it to me. I know I am in the minority of women using the pill, but I’m grateful to the Obama administration that other women will be able to access the drugs they need and that it won’t cost them what it has cost me.

Breaking News!

CNN reports (via iDad) that Maine has just subsumed New Hampshire and Vermont!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 756 other followers