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Archive for February, 2012

Obamacare To The Rescue?

Monday, February 27th, 2012

By Ellis Goodman

English: English: Barack Obama signing the Pat...

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My wife and I have recently undergone, in her case surgery, and in mine a colonoscopy.  It’s been an interesting experience to see the flood of paperwork that followed these two procedures.

In her case the total costs of her surgery, which was an outpatient procedure, was $25,000.  Initially, we received notification from the hospital that the procedure was not covered by our insurance and therefore the total amount was due and payable.  I had learned from previous experience, not to panic when one receives that sort of notice.  I did however phone the hospital and make sure that they had all the correct insurance information. They said they would resubmit it, and sure enough the next communication we received from our insurers stated that, “This is not a bill,” but we might owe $728.  Since it was not a bill, I didn’t pay anything but waited patiently.  My wife has Medicare and supplemental insurance, so we were involved with two different insurance parties.   Again, I waited patiently and sure enough the supplemental insurance finally confirmed that they were covering the extra costs and now the amount due was $25.  Altogether I received seven communications on this one surgery experience.

In my case, I had a colonoscopy, a repeat of my previous examination 5 years ago. This saga is still unfolding. I have had numerous communications from my insurer assuring me that “This is not a bill” and indicating the various amounts, gradually declining that are still due for my procedure.  Again I am not panicking and will await patiently, the continuing stream of paperwork that will come through advising me that “This is not a bill” until eventually perhaps I will have to pay some nominal amount to settle these total costs.

We all know that the administrative costs of our healthcare system is not only unbelievably complicated but also accounts for some 60% of our total annual healthcare costs. If Obamacare can achieve one major objective, it should be the simplification of the paperwork procedures and the reduction in administration costs.

I know that there are many in the US that are critical of the single-payer system that exists in Canada and many European countries.  These systems are not perfect, and maybe at the top end, the services are not as good as those in the US.  However all citizens are covered and the systems despite glitches and inadequacies, do work, and at a cost substantially below that of the US.

My daughter lives in Paris, and is covered under the French healthcare system.  Her recent experience I found very interesting.  She had been suffering from back pain for some months and eventually went to her internist to discuss the problem. The internist felt she might have some degradation in her hip, and was possibly walking incorrectly.  He filled in a slip of paper and sent her for an X-ray to a doctor’s office around the corner.  She went and found there was no receptionist, just a very small reception area and no paperwork to be completed.  The radiologist appeared, and escorted her into a room and took the X-ray.  She was told to wait for ten minutes or so, and then received a large envelope, with her X-ray inside and was told to return to her doctor.  She went back to her doctor’s office, gave him the X-ray; and, as a result, he sent her to be fitted for some orthotic shoe supports which would help reposition her hip.  At the end of her visit, she was asked to swipe her Medical card.  She never received a receipt, paperwork, or descriptions of what had transpired, but could have got this information Online, if she had wanted.  The shoe orthotics worked and her pain subsided and now she is fine.

Apparently the purchase of drugs is on a similar basis – swipe the card and that’s it.  Sometimes there are modest payments for drugs but usually only $5-$10.

Now of course, the French pay mightily for this healthcare service and indeed it is probably a disincentive for employers to hire, since the employers are responsible for the major contribution to health care costs. But nevertheless every citizen is covered, and the costs to both employer and employee compare very favorably to healthcare costs in the US and the system appears to work very efficiently.

Maybe there are lessons to be learned.  Perhaps, despite what many of our legislators may think, our healthcare system may not be the best in the world, and before we criticize other countries, we might like to look at their systems closely and see if we can learn something.  Because clearly our healthcare system, as it stands at the moment is unsustainable, our costs are prohibitive and rising, and Obamacare excruciatingly eking out congressional agreement, did not go nearly far enough to solving our problems.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

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Who’s a Real Christian, Who’s Not

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

by Nancy Werking Poling,

Two priests demand a heretic to repent as he i...

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author of Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman

and Out of the Pumpkin Shell


With scripture to support each belief, Daddy denounced just about every form of fun there is: dancing, drinking alcoholic beverages, playing cards. I wasn’t allowed to wear pants or lipstick or nail polish, and when the time came for me to marry I was to be submissive to my husband. African-Americans, Daddy believed, were inferior because they were descendants of Ham, who’d been cursed by God. Homosexuals were headed for Hell.

An adult now, I play cards every chance I get; I wear jeans, lipstick, and nail polish, have an occasional glass of wine. No one who knows me would say I’m submissive to my husband. I consider African-Americans, gays, and lesbians children of God and worthy of every right that I have (including marriage).

If he were alive, Daddy would pronounce me a non-Christian.  And he’d be wrong. Oh, I don’t use salvation language, but I try to live my life according to the teachings of Jesus: loving my neighbor as myself, caring for the poor, the imprisoned. I am opposed to war and honor the beautiful world God created. I respect the beliefs of Jews, Muslims, and Hindus. For sure I don’t measure up to Jesus’ teachings, but I consider myself a Christian nonetheless.

So when I hear voices in the Republican Party question whether President Obama or Mitt Romney is a Christian, I take it personally. Sure, Franklin Graham said in Tuesday morning’s interview on MSNBC that he cannot judge what’s in a person’s heart, and if Obama says he’s a Christian… But then Graham went on to manipulate the audience to do the judging for him—by saying  Muslims consider Obama one of them, and that Obama only started going to church because someone said he’d be more effective as a community organizer if he did. (Though Obama has said that by going to church he became a man of faith.) Santorum has accused the President’s environmental policies of being the result of a phony theology.

Republicans throw around the word elite a lot these days, accusing the President and Democrats of thinking they know best what’s good for the country. More frightening to me is the religious elite who are convinced they are qualified to decide what the rest of us should believe. Everything else is heresy.

So here we are: Inquisition 2012.

And yes, Daddy, I am a Christian.

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Mulberry Child Returns to Chicago

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

After three sold-out screenings in the “Stranger than Fiction” documentary series in January, Mulberry Child returns to Chicago with 11 screenings from March 30 to April 5 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, in partnership with the Chicago Public Library’s One Book One Chicago spring program.

My heartfelt thanks to you all for your support! The responses I’ve received are overwhelmingly touching. I’m thrilled and humbled.

Please help us spread the word of the upcoming screenings if you have seen the film. For those who couldn’t make it in January, hope you can join us this time. Once again, we strongly recommend obtaining your ticket(s) in advance.

My daughter Lisa and I will do Q & A after the last screening each day except Wednesday, April 4.

“a powerful and touching film,” stated Roger Ebert who gave the film 3 ½ stars.

Read full review.

I had a discussion about the film with Phil Ponce on Chicago Tonight Show, WTTW.

Watch the interview.


Directed by Susan Morgan Cooper, USA, 85 min. Narrated by Jacqueline Bisset

This many-layered documentary saga begins in Chicago with a disconnect between Chinese-born Jian Ping and her thoroughly American daughter Lisa Xia, and journeys into the heart of China for a personal history of one family’s trauma and eventual triumph over Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Through colorful reenactments, historical records, and moving interviews, director Morgan Cooper (AN UNLIKELY WEAPON) follows the trail of Mulberry Child, Jian’s powerful memoir of growing up amid the hardship and injustice of the Cultural Revolution, and traces daughter Lisa’s gradual understanding of family love. Presented in partnership with the Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago program, which features Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li this spring.

Screening schedule: (Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, Chicago, tickets are now available at the box office or the Ticketmaster)

Fri, Mar 30th at 8:15pm

Sat, Mar 31st at 3:15pm; 5:00pm; and 7:45pm

Sun, Apr 1st at 3:15pm; and 5:00pm

Mon, Apr 2nd at 6:15pm and 8:00pm

Tue, Apr 3rd at 8:00pm

Wed, Apr 4th at 6:15pm

Thu, Apr 5th at 8:15pm

Hope you can join us at one of the screenings if you are in the vicinity. Thanks.

Jian Ping, autor of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China

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Democratic Elections – You’re Kidding!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012


So now we know.  After the circus that was the GOP primary election in Florida, the American people were given a preview of what the general election is likely to look like in November 2012.   Our Democratic election process continues to be eroded. This election will be about the negative advertising of the Super PACs, bankrolled by some of the richest individuals and corporations in America, many of whom under the “Citizens United” decision of the Supreme Court last year, will not have to reveal their sources.

Recent campaign finance reports covering the year ended December 2011 show that corporations and some of the richest people in America have written large checks to both the Republican and Democratic Super PACs that are now exempt from the $5,000 campaign donation limits. So we may well have the leader of the free world – the President of the United States – elected through the funding support of a Las Vegas casino operator, oil and gas billionaires, unions, and the usual Wall Street titans led as always by Goldman Sachs. Also included will be Mitt Romney’s former partners at Bain Capital where he is reputed to have made $240 million.  (With an income in 2011 of over $21 million, the $240 million is more likely to be nearer $400 million.)

With these resources behind them, we can be sure that it’s going to be a bloody election cycle.  We are informed that 92% of the television advertising in Florida paid for by the Super PACs and campaign committees of the GOP primary contenders were negative. Clearly, negative advertising works.  In today’s world, the American people are fed sound bites, fear mongering, and scandals which often substitutes for real news. So it is not surprising that this form of vicious advertising of candidate-against-candidate will influence voters. The GOP primary campaign is surely the most vicious and personal, in living memory.  Even though there are plenty of reasons for candidates’ past activities – both personal and commercial – to be aired in public, the lack of civility and respect is quite awful. No wonder the GOP is deeply divided between the Tea Party Conservatives and the Republican establishment.  Sound bites and negative ads are now substituted for the real facts.  Misleading information, exaggerations and downright lies have become the norm.  As a result, the American people have never been so ignorant of the truth about the current state of affairs in the US.  While the candidates in Florida were desperately chasing the Hispanic vote, it was interesting but perhaps not totally unexpected, to read that 53% of the Florida Hispanics did not know that they were represented by a Hispanic Senator – Mark Rubio.

We know that probably less than two-thirds of the registered voters in the US will actually participate in the general election of the President.  Nevertheless it is already evident that GOP governors in many swing states are putting so-called antifraud voting legislation on the books, requiring voters to produce drivers’ licenses, or identity cards prior to casting their vote. Of course it is mainly the poor Black citizens who will be disenfranchised by this legislation, having neither a driver’s license nor an ID.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York recently told reporters, “The voters deserve to know the ugly truth of who is behind the Super PACs.” The level of disclosure is totally inadequate.  “American Crossroads,” a conservative Super PAC founded by former Bush White House Campaign adviser, Karl Rove, had raised $51 million at the end of 2011 of which $33 million doesn’t have to be disclosed in terms of who the donors of that money are. The GOP Super PACs are looking to raise over $200 million over the next few months to support Republican prospects in both the Presidential and Congressional elections.  Mitt Romney’s Super PAC’s “Restore our Future,” has already raised $20 million and intends to more than double that amount over the next few months.

When casino owners, oil and gas billionaires, and Wall Street financial institutions, make large donations to the GOP, you can guarantee that they’re expecting a big payoff if their man gets elected.  Is this good for America?   I don’t believe so. There is now so much money in the election process that what we’re seeing is a giant lobbying effort bordering on bribery and corruption.

These elections won’t be pretty. The American people will be undoubtedly influenced by these groups and their negative ads; and, if we continue in this fashion, one day the United States will be led by a puppet, selected by corporations and the wealthiest individuals in America.  If we get there, we will have a dictatorship, in fact if not in name.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

Touching Moments

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Audience at Q & A with Jian and Lisa after watching Mulberry Child

All three screenings of Mulberry Child at the Gene Siskel Film Center were sold out.  I was amazed and touched that the audiences of different ages and backgrounds connected with our life stories!

At our 2nd screening, I was pleased to see a number of Chinese in the audience. I was most eager to hear what they had to say. The moment I stepped down from the podium after Q & A, a young Chinese woman in her 20s stood up from her front row seat and hugged me.

“Thank you for sharing your story,” she said in a low voice. I realized she was crying.

I put my arms around her as she laid her head over my left shoulder and sobbed. Two of her friends stood by, their eyes welled up with tears.

The young woman lifted her head and gave me an embarrassed smile, wiping away her tears.

“It’s OK,” I said, padding her on her back as she lowered her head over my shoulder again.

Lisa and Jian addressing audience's questions

“Just call your mother tonight and tell her you love her, too,” I said, trying to make it light.

A young Chinese couple, both graduate students from UIC, waited patiently as our conversation kept being interrupted by friends who came to give their congratulations and bid farewell. It turned out that they both came from Changchun, the city where I was born.

“We never learned much about the Cultural Revolution,” the wife said. “I feel I get to know my parents much more by watching your film.”

I was deeply moved by their reaction and comments.

More than two dozens of people lingered behind and talked until the staff at the Gene Siskel Film Center called out to close the theatre at 11 p.m.

The last screening was equally moving. Only one or two people left when we started the Q & A. I felt the connection from the audience and took turns with my daughter Lisa to address their questions on China, our relationship, and the impact of the film on us.

The next day, I found one posting from a Chinese woman named Li. I remembered talking to her the night before. She was Lisa’s age. She wrote: “Every Chinese should watch this film.”

Jian with graduate students from IIT

I received numerous moving comments from my friends via email during the week after the screenings. I was so touched that I selected a few each day to forward to my director Susan and executive producer Ellis, stating these are the “love letters of the day.”

Mulberry Child was so well received by the audience that the Gene Siskel Film Center invited us to come back for a weeklong screening from March 30 to April 5, with 11 shows. The Chicago Public Library also invited us to participate in the spring’s One Book, One Chicago program, stating Mulberry Child would be a “wonderful companion” to the selected book, so we formed a three-way partnership.

I’ve committed to do Q & A with Lisa at the last screening of each day during the screening period. I look forward to connect directly with as many viewers as possible.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into a feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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