Archive for May, 2017

Amygdalae and World Peace

May 19th, 2017

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

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

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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