Thursday, December 27, 2007

Another slap at those who retired

Ahhhh- you work for a company for decades. You had good health and retirement benefits.

Now? You might lose them or have them reduced if you are 65 and over.

Why? See today's news

December 27, 2007
U.S. Ruling Backs Benefit Cut at 65 in Retiree Plans

WASHINGTON — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday that employers could reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

The policy, set forth in a new regulation, allows employers to establish two classes of retirees, with more comprehensive benefits for those under 65 and more limited benefits — or none at all — for those older.

More than 10 million retirees rely on employer-sponsored health plans as a primary source of coverage or as a supplement to Medicare, and Naomi C. Earp, the commission’s chairwoman, said, “This rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important health benefits.”

Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose an average of 6.1 percent this year and have increased 78 percent since 2001, according to surveys by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Because of the rising cost of health care and the increased life expectancy of workers, the commission said, many employers refuse to provide retiree health benefits or even to negotiate on the issue.

In general, the commission observed, employers are not required by federal law to provide health benefits to either active or retired workers.

Dianna B. Johnston, a lawyer for the commission, said many employers and labor unions had told it that “if they had to provide identical benefits for retirees under 65 and over 65, they would just drop retiree health benefits altogether for both groups.”

In a preamble to the new regulation, published Wednesday in the Federal Register, the commission said, “The final rule is not intended to encourage employers to eliminate any retiree health benefits they may currently provide.”[emphasis mine - ld]

Well it's not the intention - but intentions don't count....actions wait and watch.

What this can mean for many is that they can lose the "good" benefits if those benefits were the same as those of current under 65ers. A company may continue to provide the same benefits for all - but it now means they can change the benefits of those over 65 without it being considered age discrimination.

Trust the company? The corporation? Maybe the very same ones who, when faced with problems and declining income for their shareholders, cut the pensions and the feds said "sure?"

And, do you think the CEO's will also face this or any downward changes? Or will they still have the top of the line health and pension/retirement benefits while you are now possibly going to lose yours?

Isn't it great to be aging in the good old us of a?

Me? I'd prefer what the nay sayers call "socialized medicine." Let's all have the same health insurance benefits; universal health care.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Late December Thoughts

As we wind down another year we tend to do as the god Janus did [hence January] we look both forward and backward and see a door to a future. This time of year can be depressing for many; it’s dark in some parts of the world, it’s a time for recounting [Janus looking backward], a time for family gatherings [and all those potential conflicts] and this year it is the middle of a long drawn out primary season that has yet to see a primary vote. But votes will occur when Janus looks forward.

For those of us with birthdays in December and January there is the additional counting and re-counting. Not only is the year changing – we are adding another year to us at the same time.
So on this nearly eve of Janus – I am reflecting doubly – as I am one with a January birthday. After many decades of life – I still see a positive future for us all – but we need to envision it and work toward its effect.

I have been known to get pessimistic about the sorry state of our country but I take heart form my son’s hypothesis that everything has a way of balancing itself out. Guess that comes from having a psychologist for a mother. It’s the homeostatic idea of life, ecology, biology, etc. But I never applied it to politics like he does and that’s why he’s a sociologist ☺

My optimism for 2008 and beyond is that we, as a country, will do more to take care of our own citizens; the young, the middle and the older ones.

That we will protect our food supplies and stop allowing foods in the system that are rife with pesticides, bacteria, hormones and worse.

That we will protect our farm land and stop poisoning the grounds that are so vital to growing good foods.

That we stop poisoning the air we breathe.

That we stop feeding hormones to our food supply.

I could go on - but in short: That we will love, nurture and provide for all people from cradle to grave by giving food, shelter and medical care so that all can experience the most optimal development that is possible.

Besides when you see this symbol outside your house on a cold December morning – you just have to have a positive outlook.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Winter Solstice

Soon we will be at the winter solstice [December 21/22] and as a friend joyfully said: "we start adding daylight back!"

I don't know - here in Portland I am still trying to get used to the fact that it is dark outside in the morning - until about 7:50AM - well into the 2nd week of January.

What I am reminded of each turn of a season is when I was teaching in a small New England town and we celebrated the solstices and equinoxes [if those are the correct pluralization] by doing some of the rituals we found in mythology books.

It was fun but all I can recall these many years later is that it was pretty cold out in the field in late December and most of us wanted to get back inside to a warm fire and warm food.

But most of us have some sorts of rituals we do each season's start...some have become religious rituals and some more individualistic. Most religions have a "holiday" that coincides with the turn of the season and they can be very similar. Like light being added at the winter solstice. There is the lighting of menorahs; the lighting of Christmas trees [and houses]; lighting of Kwanzaa candles and in my neighborhood, the lighting on boats that do a parade route on the rivers.

Whatever is your winter ritual - enjoy it - add to it or keep it the same forever - it's yours!

Friday, December 14, 2007

New thoughts on bithdays

After my 65th birthday I decided to not celebrate my birthdays unless they ended with a 5 or a 0 - but my thinking has now changed.

With the recent deaths of two friends, one who never reached 65 and the never reaching 75, I decided that life is too good a thing to miss a chance to celebrate any and all ages.

So - starting in 2008 - I am going to throw myself a birthday bash every year. My day is in January and it's usually pretty dreary where ever I have lived - so I'll make it cheery and colorful with decorations and pretty food.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The down-side of aging

Got a call last night from a friend's daughter letting me know her mom had died in November. My friend was 74 and a vibrant politically active go-getter who advocated on behalf of those who are usually forgotten.

Coming one week after hearing about my other friend's death - I am a bit discombobulated. My age is about half way between that of these two and it leaves me wondering - and sad.

I know that as we age we lose friends and family. My own mother who lived to be 95 once lamented that all her friends from her past had died. She had newer friends, mostly younger than her, but those are a different kind of friend; you do not have the same history with them. Well - unless you meet the new ones and then live another 40-60 years....

I have new friends in Portland, but I have only known them at max for 4 years. Some are my age; many younger. Maybe we will all grow as close as I was to my older friends - those from childhood, college, grad school and on....I hope so.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Proud Parent

My son, the sociology major, did this video with his group for a class project. [He is the announcer you see first.]

It is on AIDS and religion

Thursday, December 06, 2007

ATM fraud - be careful

A friend just told me that she was the victim of a "swiped" pin number and her account was hit for $500 [plus ATM fees] twice.

She will be reimbursed - but - the lesson is to beware when you use ATM machines.

The bank said to look at the bank camera to see if it has been taped over -

On there is a good article and some photos of "doctored" ATM machines:
click here

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Life - and death

I got a phone call this morning from an old friend back East telling me that a mutual friend had died while on vacation overseas with her daughters...

All day I have had old memories stirred wherein the 2 of us did things together. We were both in grad school in Boston during the 60's - then lived near each other in a Boston suburb in the 70's - and her kids are just a little older than my son. In fact, I wore her maternity clothes all during my pregnancy. We both lived in D.C. at the same time for a few years too.

What my head has trouble with is that we never know when is our last day [she was just 62]. I'm sure she foresaw a future with grandchildren at her home. I'm sure she had a work schedule planned out for when she returned from this trip. And I'm sure, like several of her friends including me, her desk is a mess and her affairs not in any semblance of order....

Although sad, I am now working harder at the projects I started this year. Because, although healthy, I'm not getting any younger...none of us is...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ahhh December

December came in like the rhyme about March - a lion.....a very windy wet lion. My house was being bumped around a bit and all are tying down anything that could fly off into the river...somehow though I doubt December will go out like the lamb of that same rhyme!

I moved my chairs and plants away from the edges as we were moving a bit too much. I have always been an indoor and outdoor plant person - and here most of my plants can make it through the winter outdoors which is good as some of the indoor plants I bought when I first arrived have gotten so big that I have no room for them in the house - and besides the pots are now quite heavy....I do bring in the more "delicate" plants and the ones I know do not like to be wet all the time : - )

Enjoy your December but do stay safe - it seems to be bringing some pretty miserable storms across the country....