Sunday, August 29, 2010

How Will Changes In Health Care Effect You?

When my parents were a young married couple, they paid for doctor visits, shots and medicine out-of-pocket. At the time few people had great health insurance, if any.  But in the 60s, office visits cost $6. Shots were $4. Even hospital stays could be paid off in installments of $112 dollars a week [$16 each day] over a short period of time.  And that's how my parents paid for medical expanses, from check-ups to a premature birth.   Those days are gone. Now health care has gotten very sophisticated, and each procedure can cost thousands of dollars.  The reality is an average Joe could quickly go bankrupt without health insurance.
In the United States many of the urban poor are covered.  My hairdresser, who works at a ritzy Manhattan hair salon – but earns a low wage without benefits* – receives comprehensive health care from top New York doctors at a prestigious hospital as a Medicaid patient.  And contrary to what you hear about government-run programs, my retired relatives on Medicare are content with the level of care they receive. Many of us don't remember a time before these safety nets were in place.  Nowadays it's often the middle class who must worry about losing health care should they max out their insurance, or loose their jobs.

So it's worth taking a look at what the Obama Administration fought hard to pass.  Regardless of where you stand on health care reform, some of the changes take effect starting in September.  According to Organizing For America, a pro-Obama volunteer group, here is what the new reforms will do:

Directly quoted:
"1.  Prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick.  Right now, insurance companies can retroactively cancel your policy when you become sick if you or your employer made an unintentional mistake on your paperwork.
2.  Stops insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Beginning in September, discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions will be banned―a protection that will be extended to all Americans in 2014.
3.  Prohibits setting lifetime limits on insurance policies issued or renewed after Sept. 23, 2010. No longer will insurance companies be able to take away coverage at the very moment when patients need it most. More than 100 million Americans have health coverage that imposes lifetime limits on care.
4.  Phases out annual dollar limits on coverage over the next three years.  Even more aggressive than lifetime limits are annual dollar limits on what an insurance company will pay for your health care. For the people with medical costs that hit these limits, the consequences can be devastating.
5.  Allows you to designate any available participating primary care doctor as your provider. You’ll be able to keep the primary care doctor or pediatrician you choose, and see an OB-GYN without referral.
6.  Removes insurance company barriers to receiving emergency care and prevents them from charging you more because you’re out of network. You’ll be able to get emergency care at a hospital outside of your plan’s network without facing higher co-pays or deductibles or having to fight to get approval first.”

And of course, the most controversial aspect of the new health care bill is being challenged in the courts -- namely that everyone must have medical insurance. 

I think it's vital we take the time to learn how the new legislation will effect us and not simply listen to political pundits, who appear on television.  Recommended reading: Heath Care Reform by Jonathan Gruber.  You have every right to your opinion.  Just be informed, so that fear based on misunderstanding doesn't rule the day.

*It's worth noting that businesses, which once offered employees benefits now hire workers as independent contractors, so they don't have to pay for health care.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

10 Wardrobe Pieces Every Man Should Own

When it comes to fashion, I haven't forgotten about men.  But since I'm a woman, I went straight to the source:  I asked a couple of stylish men to come up with their list of what every well-dressed man needs in his closet.  See if you agree.
Here is Carl's list:
1. Blue, or grey pinstripe suit
2. Blue, or black blazer
3. Nice denim slacks
4. A pair of chinos
5. White cotton dress shirt
6. Simple-design tie
7. Loafers
8. Black leather, dress shoes, with leather soles
9. Polo shirts
10. A pair of walking shorts
Dave said:
1. Polished black shoes
2. Black suit
3. Dress shirt, a solid color
4. A bold tie that is not busy
5. Two watches, one dressy and one classic
6. Argyle socks
7. Polo shirts, 3 different colors
8. Non-cargo shorts, white and navy blue
9. Nice sunglasses
10. Tennis shoes that are clean and comfortable

Thanks men for contributing.  With classics like these, every man can [pare down and still] look his best.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

10 Wardrobe Pieces Every Woman Should Own

Nowadays I shop with a less is more mentality.  It's liberating, but you have to develop a smart antenna.  I look for classic pieces that are easy to care for, yet hold up well over time.  With few exceptions, my clothing can do double duty -- be mixed and matched with other articles to stretch my wardrobe, plus go from casual to dress up.  My values are to scale back, but I still want to put my best foot forward and look pretty.  Here are my picks for basics that are eternal, the gold standards, in any woman's wardrobe:
Coco Chanel

1) Dark blue denim jeans – They are dressier and more versatile than lighter washes.
2) Leather jacket – It's positively fetching and will outlast/outlive you.
3) Long black leggings – They are casual chic and make legs look endless.
4) Pearl or diamond stud earrings – Buy the one you can afford.  You can't go wrong either way.
5) A little black dress – First created by Coco Chanel -- I saw the original in a museum.  If you put that first dress on today, you'd still look ultra modern and like a knowout.
6) Ballet flats – I love patent leather flats.  They dress up everything from the little black dress to blue jeans.
7) Pumps – A two-inch heel is a classic.
8) A scarf – Either cotton or silk in a beautiful, complimentary color to make your outfits pop.
9) Cardigan sweaters – One black and another in a light shade that flatters your skin.  I buy cashmere for winter and cotton to wear in the summer months.  They last for years.
10) T-shirts – 100% cotton, or made with a little lycra to hold their shape.  I wear t-shirts to layer under a dress, or pair with pants under a blazer.  You can buy t-shirts in so many styles and wear them in place of a cotton blouse.  They are so easy to wash-and-wear and stay winkle-free, so they're perfect for traveling.

That's my list of ten essentials.  What would you add?

Perhaps you'd like to try a new look by using the virtual tools on these fun, cyber, fashion sites, as featured on NBC's “The Today Show”:
1. Taaz

Now go out in style, and enjoy!  (See the 10 peices every man should wear.)

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Relief For Sore Muscles

You won't believe what I put on an overworked knee.  I can hardly believe it, myself.  Let me explain: I live across the street from an old style pharmacy.  It's been in the neighborhood for two generations.  When you walk in the door, the employees really seem to care.  You get personal service that's reliable, along with recommendations for pain ointments that are downright unconventional.  The day I walked in the door to buy a rub for my sore knee, I never imagined I'd leave carrying 16 oz of Absorbine Veterinary Liniment.  There's a silhouette of a horse on the bottle!  It gave me pause, to say the least.  Did I walk into a drug, or a horse supply store?  Was this a joke, or what?  It turned out not to be a joke, and the ingredients, while potent, seem harmless.  The liniment contains a herbal formula with plant extracts like calendula, echinacea and wormwood.  Other active ingredients include menthol, chloroxylenol and iodine.  The label says it relieves muscle soreness, stiffness and swelling.  It stimulates circulation, acts as a “bracer” and “tightener” and you can even use it on cuts and abrasions.  Talk about multi-tasking!  Maybe it also keeps bugs away?

But the label never mentions whether people should use it.  The directions only explain how it's good for your horse!  Perhaps, I shouldn't be surprised that a horse incurs temporary aches and pains and stiffness from a workout.  And now I know, Absorbine Veterinary Liniment helps relieve these discomforts.  It should be applied to all four legs and rubbed on the back, loin and shoulders, before covering your horse with a heavy blanket.

Ok ... but what about a human knee?  There was only one way to find out.  So on the advice of a zany* pharmacist, I took the liniment home and rubbed it on my sore knee.  I only had the one leg to try it on.  But, you know what?  My knee does feel better! Although new to me, this stuff has been around since 1892, and it just goes to show, what's good for a horse is good for me. Whatever works, I always say.  Cost: 10.98 for 16 oz. 
*in a good way

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Everly Brothers Sing, Reviews

The Everly Brothers appearing on "Music Scene" in November, 1969

Many music fans know the Everly Brothers for their early hits like "Bye, Bye Love" and "Wake Up Little Suzy," and perhaps "Cathy's Clown," a mega hit that put their second record label, the newly minted Warner Bros. Records, on the map.  The Everly Brothers went on to record albums [together and separately] throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, and the quality of their later albums never waned.  Although not as accepted by the American public, nor music critics -- who wanted Don and Phil to remain the same 50s duo -- their later releases were every bit as good as their early hits.  Here are my reviews for two of their later albums: 

The Everly Brothers were often accused of trying to sound hip when they performed or created music in the late 1960s - early 1970s, and why should that be?  Some listeners forget just how young the brothers were when they first hit the charts in 1957.  Phil was 18, and Don had just turned 20.  They were still young men in the late 60s and early 70s.  Why wouldn't their music (and hair) reflect the contemporary times they were living in?  Many of the 1960s musicians who followed and were influenced by the Everly Brothers were in the same age bracket as their idols.  Note that Don was born in 1937, Phil in 1939, Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones in 1936, John Lennon of the Beatles in 1940, and Eric Burdon of the Animals in 1941.

So why listen to this neglected and their later albums?  My answer is for the voices ... and to hear recording artists, who, indeed, changed the times, but also allowed themselves to be changed by the times.  On this album the hit, "Bowling Green," Don's solo, "A Whiter Shade of Pale," and the reissued "It's All Over" -- with Phil singing the solo lines -- are all brilliant songs.  Both Don and Phil are spectacular lead ... and harmony singers.  A listener will never find better voices.

Some Hearts:  (The last studio album)
It would surprise no one that I have all three of the Everly Brothers' Mercury studio albums. I like this last album just as much as the first two (produced by Dave Edmunds). "Some Hearts," produced by Don and Phil, themselves, features what they do best - love songs, and they sing them ... well ... from the heart. Once again their songs capture interesting observations about falling in and out of love. Like their first two 80s albums, this last one brings the Everlys' sound up-to-date while keeping the emphasis on their crisp, stirring voices. Standouts, for me, include the ballad: "Be My Love Again" and the stompers: "Ride the Wind" and "Angel of the Darkness."  There is always a little bit of country and a lot of rock and roll in the Everly sound.  And what is true of their music overall also holds for this, their last studio album, namely, you'll never grow tired of listening to it. {Also pick up Roots, which Rolling Stone calls "one of the finest early country-rock albums."}

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