Remember, we’re all animals

July 21st, 2017 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Oh, my, I just read a very disturbing article published by the National Geographic about our pets. It was titled “Would your dog eat you if you died? Get the facts.”

This piece was a little like reading a Stephen King novel from the era when he was still using LSD. The title was a little misleading, however, because it was not limited to just your pet dog. It explored your feline friends as well. To save you the gory details, the answer was, yes. Yes, your pets will definitely eat you.

How is it possible that your loving, kind, beautiful, well-behaved pet would eat you? Well, let’s be honest, we’d probably do the same thing if the situation warranted it.

Remember the Uruguayan Air Force Chartered Flight 571 that was carrying 45 people, including a rugby union team, their friends, family, and associates? It was the basis of the movie “Alive.” The plane crashed in the Andes in 1972, and the survivors began eating those who did not make it, like the Donner Party on their trip through the Sierra Nevada Hasting Cutoff.

It was certainly a graphic depiction of anthropophagy, but the pet story reminded me that we are all animals, and we spend most of our human lives trying to not only suppress that fact, we spend our lives doing everything we can to hide from it. Dogs come from wolves, cats come from tigers, and hey, like them, the vast majority of us are carnivores.

It’s such an ironic evolution that we deal with every day. As a 10-year-old, I vividly remember our elementary school field trips. We would go to the Joseph Meat Packing Plant. They’d kill the cattle in front of us and then gut and butcher them. We absolutely knew where that hamburger came from for lunch. (I’m sure it would be considered child abuse now, but it was just a field trip for us.)

The book, “The Naked Ape,” by Desmond Morris takes a deep and long look at humans as animals. Morris was a practicing zoologist who dedicated this book to we humans as animals.

He very carefully outlined the numerous animal traits that we share, and then he illustrated how hard we work at making sure every day we aren’t seen as animals. Bathing, deodorant, shaving, and clothing are just a few examples.

If you think about the craziness of our world and equate it to packs, tribes, gangs, and such, things begin to make so much more sense.

It also explains some of our political, psychosocial, and personal decisions regarding tattoos, piercings, sports, and voting. We are pack animals. It’s why we run to wear our Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, and Under Armor clothing. We want to fit in with the rest of our gang, whatever that gang represents. It also explains our love of red meat, our sexuality, and what seems to be our madness. We’re animals disguising ourselves as humans.

Yes, we have spirituality and a more sophisticated brain, but smart people do some pretty dumb things. It actually gives me a little peace of mind when I’m trying to figure out why we’ve been at war forever or why we’re so hostile toward each other at political rallies. It’s our animal side.

So, the next time you look at Buddy, Chipper, or Miss Kitty, just understand that they’ll probably go for the soft tissue first, and it’s not because they didn’t like you or because there wasn’t food in their bowl.

Thank you, National Geographic, for absolutely terrifying me. I’m so glad I’m pet-less right now. Here kitty kitty.

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Opioids and Capitalism

July 12th, 2017 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

When we first introduced Integrative Medicine practices at the hospital where I was the CEO, we basically embraced a code similar to the Statue of Liberty. It was, “Give us the patients you’re no longer able to help because if we are doing no harm and nothing else is working, why not?”

There have been more than 19,000 educational and scientific papers written on the efficacy of acupuncture, but there are still those hardline or uninformed who believe it’s somehow a fad or totally ineffective.

Of course, Integrative Medicine doesn’t always work for every individual, but goodness knows that traditional medicine has its challenges as well. The point is never to replace one with the other but to complement one another when possible or effective.

The Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation has just opened the door to at least considering some forms of Integrative Medicine when dealing with the Opioid crisis. As one of my very closest friends recently wrote, “The failure of Pharma in pain management is monumental, and it is apparent to me that we are at the tipping point.”

He went on to say, “The Joint Commission has endorsed the use of independent licensed practitioners in the pain management journey, and Integrative Medicine brings a philosophy and clinical approach which is not well understood but is being received with greater acceptance. Clearly, economics and power have driven the country into this opioid crisis and have greatly delayed a transformation process that is not Pharma oriented.”

Back in the early 2000s, I had an opportunity to interact with the lead scientist from a major pharmaceutical company. He had visited our research center where we were endorsing both personalized and integrative medicine. As I drove him to the airport to board his company’s private jet, he turned to me and said, “You don’t understand the pharmaceutical industry.” My response was, “Clearly, I don’t” to which he responded, “The pharmaceutical industry is like the movie industry. We are only looking for the blockbusters. We want to give you a pill from the time you’re 5 until you’re 85 that never cures you.”

Well, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams with the opioid crisis. One of my emergency room physicians once told me that as little as one prescription of an opioid can cause addiction. Obviously, it depends on the pharmacogenomic profile of the patient, but some of us are addiction prone and our reactions to pain meds are dramatic.

One of the very sad examples of the savage capitalism involved in getting hundreds of thousands of patients addicted to these meds is that opioids also contribute to constipation. Consequently, pharma has come out with a new drug to sell the addicted that helps them with that drug caused problem as well.”Heal with a pill?”

I recently read a set of statistics that seemed not only overwhelming but also disconcerting and pathetic. The use of Vicodin has grown from 112 million doses in 2006 to 131 million in 2017. Per an ABC News report, the United States makes up only 4.6 percent of the world’s population but consumes 80 percent of its opioids and 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone, and now that heroin is less expensive than Vicodin or other opioids, we have rampant drug addiction in our country.

More people are dying of overdoses in our country now than auto accidents, and, according to a quote from public health and law enforcement officials, painkillers are now responsible for more deaths than crack and black tar heroin in the 1970’s and 80’s combined.

So, the issue isn’t one of pain. We know that people have pain. The issue is how to treat that pain. The opioids were originally created to deal only with terminal patients.

When will the system recognize that mindfulness, acupuncture, visual imaging, controlled stretching, and other integrative modalities may be part of the answer? How about now?

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On Being Alive

July 5th, 2017 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

We’ve all seen those articles where some geezer like me prints something about growing up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s and expresses his astonishment about the fact he is still with us. Well, this geezer is planning to take that to an entirely new level. I’m going to document some of the things that my body has withstood up to this point, and it is amazing.

Let’s first start with the medical field. Penicillin began being used widely after World War II, and my generation was the first to both enjoy its benefits and then to confirm its costs. As a little guy, my dad, and practically everyone else’s dad smoked like chimneys. Apparently, that somehow contributed to ear, as well as tonsil, infections. To say that I had plenty of penicillin shots would be like saying I ate plenty of Frosted Flakes. Counting the number of times that needle filled with white fluid entered my butt or my arm would be like trying to count the number of flakes in a lifetime worth of sugary cereal consumption.

At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry had convinced the farming industry to give its animals antibiotics because it made them get fatter faster. In fact, their salesmen used to take antibiotics and stand on the feed scales week after week to show their enormous weight gains. I’m not saying that my 36 plus inch waste came from childhood consumption of antibiotics, but what other reason could there be? Oh, and let’s not forget that the over use of antibiotics also contributes to the death and destruction of the good microbes in our guts which contributes to yeast belly. (I think beer does, too, but I’m no doctor.)

The Buster Brown store in Connellsville had a machine that I could put my foot into and with the flip of a switch see my foot bones. It was supposed to be for better fitting of my Ked canvas tennis shoes, but really?

Oh, and our local doc purchased a fluoroscope. You could bet that every time you developed a cough before you got your penicillin shot, you would stand behind that fluoroscope and doc would peek inside your chest. (Are you counting rads yet?)

Let’s not forget that, when I was a young teacher, the X-ray van would pull up behind the school each year and we would parade through that van to have a chest X-ray to make sure we didn’t have tuberculosis. Then, when I went for my regular physical from my internist, I got zapped again for 20 years.

Oh, and let’s talk about the 25,000 dental X-rays I’ve gotten over the centuries. Of course, they are low dose, but not low enough to keep the tech from running out of the room screaming before she pulls the trigger.

Then there were the pneumonia X-rays, the PET/CT scans, the regular CAT scans, the four heart caths with more fluoroscopy, and six dermatology radiation treatments by Dr. Jacob in Shadyside for a pimple on my lip in the 1960s. But let’s move on to my diet. Margarine was the food of choice. It was concluded by some ad agency to be so much better for you than butter. This stuff would sit out on the table for weeks at a time pulsating with hydrogenated fats, and we sucked it down like milkshakes.

Oh, and my aunt owned a candy store and paid me with candy for doing work around her shop. Yep, thousands of dollars of candy went into my mouth over my lifetime. And there was that raw milk that we drank straight from the cows, and don’t forget the thousands of eggs and dozens and dozens of triple cheese pizzas.

Throw in the no seat belt law, the no drunk driving laws, and the other “it’s OK” things, and I’m a MIRACLE! Case closed!

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On Being a DAD

June 23rd, 2017 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

Father’s Day was never as big of a deal as Mother’s Day. It’s probably because dad’s role in the kid scenario is not as painful as mom’s role. I can honestly say though that being a dad can sometimes hurt like heck. It starts fast as each baby advances through their childhood ailments and other challenging experiences. As a young dad, I always wished their pain could have been transferred to me so they would have been spared, but that’s not the way it works.

When they were little, and I was alone with them at ages one and three, and both had fevers that were approaching the stratosphere, I fed them popsicles, bathed them in tepid water and prepared cold water enemas which, thank goodness, never had to be administered. That’s a memory I’ll never forget.

Then there was that time when my daughter caught her finger in the swing chain and broke the tip of it. The worst part of that experience, however, was when the nurse asked me how it was broken, and she asked me as if I had somehow tortured my baby girl deliberately.

Then there was the time I was in Lancaster and got the call that my son was hospitalized with pneumonia. I left immediately and arrived at 2 a.m.to sit with him throughout the night at his hospital bed. The resident had explained that the IV antibiotic could be painful, and as I sat beside his bed, I could hear a drip, drip, drip of the IV. Each drop made me wince. A few days later while sitting beside him at home, I heard that same sound and realized it was his SWATCH watch.

Of course, there was that day he was hit with a fastball and almost died from the dye from the CAT scan, and the time he accidentally shot the neighbor in the hand with his BB gun. Oh, wait, those were my pains. He didn’t feel anything.

There were those accident phone calls, too. My daughter’s college boyfriend’s car was T-boned on the passenger side and the hospital call went something like this, “Is this Mr. Jacobs? Your daughter’s been in an accident. Please come to the emergency room.” Or the time my son was hit by a truck and the neighbors were all in my driveway crying. Those were lifetime memories.

Much of today’s personal pain comes from their perceived individual or business challenges, from money challenges, health scares, and, of course, Lyme disease. It never stops until either we die or they do, and that’s the reality of being a dad. You can be there for them all the time, but not too much because being there too much can make them too dependent.

And now, all these years later, I get to do it all again with six my grandchildren. We’ve dealt with at least three or four broken arms, a broken leg, and a broken nose. We’ve had gymnastics accidents from the non-parallel bars and home accidents from falling off a yoga ball.

The hardest grandkid pain, though, has been from broken hearts caused by military deployments, from being bullied, broken promises from friends or loved ones, and misunderstood or unmanaged expectations from teachers and relatives that caused pure agony.

Before this scares any of you father’s to be, understand that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. In fact, going through my life without my kids and grandkids would have been a journey not worth making because, when it comes down to it, there’s nothing better, nothing. Remember, roses have thorns, beaches have hurricanes, and bees have stingers. It’s all part of the deal, all part of this crazy thing we call life.

We’re all made of energy and matter and are both transient and eternal. Enjoy the journey.

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Repeal and Replace ACA

June 19th, 2017 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

When we discuss the concept of struggling for survival in America due to our health care coverage, it seems like this discussion should be considered absurd, but, unfortunately, it’s not. How many of us will be forced to stay in jobs that we hate or will be required to keep working long after retirement to maintain healthcare coverage? And how many of us will be left without insurance or will be unable to afford insurance in the future? These are all issues that must be taken into consideration as the Republican side of the U.S. Senate moves forward with their replacement of the Affordable Care Act.
We rank 38th internationally in infant mortality and 37th in overall health yet we spend more on healthcare per capita than any other industrialized nation in the world. If you are a child today in the United States, there is better than a 30% chance that you will develop and experience the devastating impact of Type II diabetes. In addition to the fact that we are overweight, under exercised and nutritionally bankrupt, we are seeing projections that our generation will potentially outlive our children.
In addition, we will soon be spending 3.8 trillion dollars on health care in the United States with less than 5% of these dollars being spent on preventative medicine. At the same time we continue to plunder our younger generations by spending over 50% of our healthcare dollars on end of life care that will neither improve our health status nor increase our longevity.

When will our priorities as a nation include health care consistency? As a country, we continue to struggle to establish a dependable national health policy. We have not embraced prevention and wellness, and we can’t agree if healthcare is an entitlement or another journey in capitalism. We also continue to see the irony of one side of isle that wants healthcare for all and the other side that is proposing significant cuts in health and human services.
Our current challenge, though, is we aren’t exactly sure what is happening in the Senate because their work has been cloistered. If it follows the recommendations of the House, it appears that millions of us could either be without insurance or unable to afford it. We also understand if healthcare is not addressed comprehensively, the Baby Boomers could indeed contribute to bankrupting our current system.
Earlier this year, the Pew Foundation report indicated that 60% of Americans say the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all, the highest percentage in more than a decade. This however is a very partisan presentation where Republicans supporting this coverage only accounted for 32% of the total and Democrats and Independents weighed in at 85%.
So, how do we work together to make our country a better place? Let’s live up to our own description of ourselves, and recapture world leadership in things that do matter. Is it possible to save more of our newborns, to help our children, and still find a way to treasure our elderly? Will we ensure that the life span of our children and grandchildren is not shorter than our own. Can we embrace a new philosophy of caring for our fellowman that will make a difference in the delivery of health care in our country?
Regardless of your party affiliation, we may only have one chance to influence our legislators in this critical decision and the time to do this is now. If you don’t believe that your voice matters, you haven’t been paying attention lately. Call, write, and reach out to Senators Toomey and Casey and make sure they know where you stand on this healthcare issue in America. It is possible to meet every one of the commitments that President Trump made in his campaign speeches regarding healthcare coverage. It’s just a matter of priorities. What are our priorities? More importantly, what are your priorities?

 

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EGO

June 15th, 2017 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Critics say both statins and fluorides are supposed to have a negative impact on your IQ, Actually, neckties are supposed to restrict blood flow to the brain, too. (Maybe that’s what’s been going on in the United States lately?)

Regardless, I’m going to share some potentially impaired ideas with you that I’ve been thinking about for the last few months. I’m hoping that sharing this information might help you avoid a few of the pitfalls that I’ve encountered on my own life-journey.

From the book, New Eyes by Steve Treu: “A fundamental tenet of Buddhism is that suffering is inevitable during our lives.” When I’d have a bad day while working at the hospital, I’d just go up to the OB unit, look at all of those newborns and think, “You poor little babies, you have no idea what’s coming.”

Over the years, I’ve come to understand from my 20/20 hindsight, that a large percentage of my most mentally and emotionally painful experiences were preventable. They were, for the most part, self-inflicted wounds due to my personal conditioning, education, and perceptions. Most of the pain, however, could be directly attributed to my ego.

The ego is an amazing part of all of us. I’ve written about how our Amygdalae’s, those little almond sized parts of our brains, can drive us bonkers, but egos can be much worse.

The classic definition of ego is “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. And the synonyms for ego are our self-worth, self-respect, self-image, and self-confidence. It’s that part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for not only reality testing but also for our sense of personal identity.”

Some of us have over inflated and undeserved super egos, and some of us don’t have enough of an ego. It’s the Goldilocks ego that would be “just right,” but they’re hard to come by most days.

Look, we all need a strong ego just to survive, but your ego can also spin out of control so fast that it makes the speed of light stand still. What’s the cause of most of our ego problems? Well, childhood, junior high-ood, and adulthood are three factors. Then throw in parenthood, and just “the hood.”

Because parenting doesn’t require any training, most of us tend to do unto our children as our parents did unto us, and that can create more baggage than a Samsonite store. There are your overly critical parents, those demanding parents who just won’t stop picking on you. Then there are the over nurturing, helicopter parents who won’t let you out of their sight. Both provide us with lots of material to screw up our ego for life.

If we can be objective about our egos, we can avoid a majority of those self-imposed craters of pain caused by them. It all feeds into our self-inflicted unhappiness, and in the big picture, it’s kind of meaningless.

If we could just tangibly remove ourselves from the equation, step back and look at what’s really going on, much of what we become hysterical over is just senseless. The size of our house, the cost of our cars, the number of karats in the diamond, and the quality of our clothing will not deliver lasting happiness. Always ask the question, “In the big picture of life, does this really matter?”

Some of us tolerate toxic people and noxious situations way too long, and most of us take things much too personally. If we can just step away and quiet our amygdala we can see who the jerks are, what their game is, and why it’s better to just avoid them any way we can.

If that doesn’t work, take seven deep breaths which will automatically throw your body into the relaxation response. Then take a really hard look at whatever is driving you crazy and ask, “Did anyone die?”

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Finding the Balance with Drs. Deepak Chopra, Dean Ornish, Mimi Guarneri, Len Wisneski

June 2nd, 2017 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

 

Over the past 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the physicians listed above. I’ve worked with some of them for several years at a time. I’ve worked with Dr. Dean Ornish to help fund and advance his research projects in prostate cancer and heart disease, with Dr. Mimi Guarneri to establish Integrative Medicine Centers on the East and West Coast, and with Dr. Len Wisneski to support his efforts to move the agenda of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium’s 600,000 integrative practitioners to the next level. Finally, I’ve worked with Dr. Deepak Chopra toward helping design his future in ways that can impact millions of additional people. These relationships and engagements have been both an honor and a pleasure.

As a professional in integrative medicine management, my knowledge and expertise are in the areas of conceptualization and creation of integrative medicine programs and centers. My skills are most valuable in identifying and recruiting potential professionals, tying the programs together with national networks, working with my partners to avoid pitfalls in finance and scheduling, and designing these centers to succeed.  But what these physicians have worked on throughout their careers and what these centers are about is helping us find balance in our personal lives, the balance between our egos and our consciousness.

The major challenge that we have faced in this work is that many of our potential participants are so deeply engrossed in their traditional healthcare models that the possible impact of Integrative Medicine does not always register with them.  If they cannot visualize themselves utilizing these practices, they typically cannot identify with the millions of participants who do so on an international level.

The other challenge that we face in integrative medicine is that, because we are living in an avaricious society where most days we collectively seem to have lost our balance on many levels, our primary focus has become very heavily skewed toward only material and ego rewards. We seem to have collectively moved away from our journey toward wisdom, compassion, forgiveness, patience, humility, and respect. These are the consciousness traits that are reinforced through the practice of Integrative Medicine.

Some like to use the quote that we are all spirits having a human experience which reinforces that healing depends on the mind, body, and spirit connection.   Even though we all know that Ego-based successes do not guarantee peace in anyone’s life, we continue to run on that treadmill that promises to provide us with more ego-related rewards such as money, power, and control while starving our souls of the very real consciousness nourishment that will provide us with inner peace.

We all know that the only germane question in life is if our personal journey is bringing us that peace. That is what Integrative Medicine is intended to help promote, a path to peace.  We can only find that path if we embrace the Greek words, “Gnothi Seauton,” know thyself.  This Unity Consciousness can only be found inside ourselves.

No matter if it’s God, Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, or Native American consciousness, it’s a journey that we all must take for ourselves because we all know that our time here is both fleeting and temporary.  We are spiritual beings living in a human body. Integrative Medicine practices are all about finding that balance between ego and consciousness that will help us create inner peace from the outer chaos.

Many of us have heard the saying of the Buddha, “We become what we think.” We are all made of stardust, and we have vibrational connections that cannot be denied. Our universe is only one of millions and billions of stars and planets, and we also know that the path to finding happiness is deep within us.

Things and awards can’t buy us our inner love and peace!

BREATHE

 

 

 

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Amygdalae and World Peace

May 19th, 2017 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

My bucket list is virtually impossible and possibly somewhat delusional, but I believe you should either go big or go home. As long as I can remember, I wanted to do something significant to make the world better. After I left teaching and explored a few career cul-de-sacs, I did end up in healthcare administration and started a deeper search for my big impact opportunity. Then came research, and I realized there truly was potential to change the world. It was a few years after I left healthcare administration when I realized where those world changes could be found.

I started working with some brain scientists; neuroscientists and psychiatrists and they taught me about the amygdala. I’ve come to realize that the amygdala is the source of many of our world’s challenges. I’m not sure how I missed this fact, but today I also discovered we have two amygdala sections of the brain, one on either side. That’s like finding out that the bill you got for college is only half of the bill. Now, we’ll have twice as much to deal with on our quest to change the world through amygdalae.

Now, here’s where things get a little more complex but encouraging, the function of the frontal lobe’s prefrontal cortex helps control the amygdala. According to an article titled, “The Brain Made Simple,” You use your prefrontal cortex to think and make decisions. This part of the frontal lobe is also where our personality is formed and where we can carry out higher mental processes. In addition, the frontal lobe is necessary to be able to speak.” Controlling the amygdala via the prefrontal cortex could be the good news except for one very important thing. This part of our brain isn’t completely developed until our early and sometimes even mid-20s. This explains why most teenagers and young adults can be noncompliant regarding the rules of society. It’s this part of our brain that provides some reasoning skills to calm down the amygdala, but it doesn’t do it soon enough.

If you’re still with me, there are still more layers of influencers that contribute to how we act, and they can go back literally millions of years. There are genetic changes that have occurred over generations. Was your mom under stress while you were in the womb? Did your ancestors come from a society where war was always part of their lives? Do you have other specific genetic mutations, or have you been subjected to abuse? Do you have higher levels of testosterone? All these variables can contribute to how you act and react.

Back to my opening sentence. One of my bucket list items, like Miss Universe, is world peace, but now it’s clear that the only way to achieve that efficiently is to find the means to hijack the destructiveness and idiocy that sometimes emerges from the functioning of the amygdalae due to the lack of involvement from the prefrontal cortex.

That’s when I saw that Silicon Valley has employed some of the world’s greatest minds to make programs like Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, and LinkedIn addictive. This is great news. Everyone will be so hooked on their phones and computers all war will stop while we wait to see how many LIKES we get from that last cat picture we posted. I’m now on my way to bucket list item number two, Intergalactic travel.

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More than you ever wanted to know about the repeal and replacement for the ACA

May 4th, 2017 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

We’re not going to know how the new repeal and replacement for the Affordable Care Act will impact us personally until it hits, but here are what the proposed changes look like. Thanks to the New York Times, Modern Healthcare, and half a dozen other publications that I receive, here are some highlights, or, depending upon your point of view and financial situation, lowlights from the proposed changes.

Before you read this let me give a quick summary.  If you’re wealthy, you’re going to be better off than before.  If you own a business, you should be better off financially. If you’re healthy, you’re good for now.  If you live in the right state, you might be fine, but, depending on your health situation, you may have to move from state to state to try to find coverage, and please, don’t be poor.

Pre-existing conditions – Under the ACA insurers are required to cover people regardless of any pre-existing conditions and they are not allowed to charge customers based on their health history. The new proposed House bill will allow price differences to be imposed by insurers on a state by state basis.  As long as states set up some type of high-risk program, insurers could charge higher prices to those sick customers if they’d experienced a lapse in coverage for more than 63 days.

Dependent coverage until 26 – The new bill keeps this provision.

Taxes – Under the ACA new taxes on medical devices, indoor tanning, prescription drugs and high-income individuals were imposed.  All of these taxes would be repealed.

Employer mandate-The ACA requires companies to provide affordable insurance to their employees.  This will no longer be a requirement.

Individual mandate- The ACA requires people who can afford health insurance to purchase it.  This provision will no longer be a requirement.

Subsidies for out-of-pocket expenses – Under the ACA tax credits currently are provided to help some people make co-payments and pay deductibles.  This provision would be repealed in 2020.

Prohibitions on annual and lifetime limits – Under the ACA insurers are barred from setting a limit on how much they have to pay to cover any individual. The House bill allows states to waive the “essential health benefits” rules. Consequently, caps on coverage could become possible for certain types of care.

Restrictions for charging more for older Americans -The ACA prohibits insurance companies from charging older customers more than three times the prices charged to younger ones.  The new bill would allow insurers to charge five times more, but states could vote to charge even more.

Premium subsidies – The ACA gives tax credits to middle-income Americans to help offset the costs of the program, but the new bill would use age instead of income and location to calculate how much taxpayers can receive in subsidies. They also put a cap on this for higher earners.

Medicaid Expansion- Right now over 30 states expanded their coverage for Medicaid. The new act would allow those 30 states to continue receiving subsidies until 2020, but states that did not expand Medicaid would not be allowed to do so in the future. The bill also permits states to receive lump-sum block grants and suggests capping federal funding per enrollee, and it gives the states the right to impose work requirements for some Medicaid beneficiaries.

Essential health benefits – Basic benefits including for emergency care, maternity care,  and preventive services are currently part of the ACA.  The House bill allows states to decide if they want to provide basic benefits or not.

Health savings accounts -Under the ACA, individuals could put up to $3400 and a family $6750 into a tax-free health savings account, but the new bill would allow people to put much more into their HSA’s while also allowing spouses to make additional contributions.

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My Youth Was All About Bikes

May 3rd, 2017 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

First, I had that used, blue, 14-inch girls bike that my dad bought for $6. Then a few years later, I finally saved enough money from my paper route, holiday and birthday presents to buy a J.C. Higgins, Pee-wee Herman-type bike with big white wall tires, handle bar streamers, a white headlight, and chrome fenders. As an adult, I began buying Treks and Cannondales when they came on the scene, and now I have stationary bikes.

Relative to biking, as a young adult, there was also a multi-year period where I was regularly forced to observe something that no person should ever have to see. One of my bosses, a very large man, often rode around in skin-tight biking gear. He looked like that guy from Monty Python where, if he ate that after dinner mint, he would explode. It was the skintight shorts that were the visual challenge. It’s been 17 years, but you just can’t unsee something like that.

 Fourteen years ago, I made a firm decision to do everything I could to help keep my grandkids on bikes because I believe bikes are better than couches and iPhones for their growing little bodies. Oh, and I also believe in helmets because one of my most terrifying life moments was when my son was hit by a pickup truck during those pre-helmet days. (When he sang Moooooon River in the emergency room during an internal exam, I knew he’d be OK.)

Now, I’m promoting a giant bike thing. Don’t get me wrong, I am still not riding in it, but it is with deep conviction that I’ve committed to promoting this thing. I’m excited about it because it could have a big impact on the area, and it’s for a good cause, Special Olympics Pennsylvania, Winter Games Nordic. We’ve all seen the incredible smiles on those kids faces as hundreds of athletes, coaches, families, and friends representing all corners of Pennsylvania compete in alpine and cross-country skiing, and speed skating, snowshoeing and individual skills events. More than 350 athletes and 130 coaches participate in three days of exciting winter sports.

So, here’s the lowdown on the bike ride. It’s called the Hidden Valley Mountain Metric PA Century Bicycle Challenge, and it starts at 9 a.m. on July 15. It offers several levels of rides through the scenic hills and countryside surrounding Hidden Valley, but the most challenging will be the Metric Century (62 miles) that features both the distance and climbs to challenge experienced cyclists. No, uh, uh . . . you won’t be seeing moi doing that 62-mile run. This Metric Century ride will, in part, follow the Cycle Southern Alleghenies Raging Rapids Adventure tour.

There will also be a less intense Half Metric Century (32-mile) ride for the recreational rider, but I’m won’t be on the ride either. Then there will be a fun ride for families of all ages over a lesser challenging route, and you won’t see me there either. But because all of the rides begin and end at Hidden Valley, include refreshment breaks along the route, and food and entertainment at the conclusion of the ride, you may see me there. Or I may be offering child care and babysitting because I’ve become very adept at offering those services.

Don’t worry, there will be a Support and Gear wagon along the major routes, and if you play your cards right, you may get your hands on some simple carbs and sports drinks. For your $30 advanced registration, you’ll get all of those things plus a food coupon and a performance fabric event shirt. Come on, think about it. Why not pedal your buns off for a few hours, burn off some calories, and then eat and drink afterward? You can register online at tinyurl.com/MountainMetric. Start elevation, 2,923-feet., max elevation 2,934-feet, and gain is 5,655 feet. Do ya feel the burn?

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