ACA Insurance Carriers Exiting Virginia

My friend Jan Keister sent me this from the Williamsburg newspaper (here) and it’s not good news for those leaning heavily on the ACA for their insurance in Virginia:

Optima Health announced Wednesday that it will continue to offer medical insurance via the Affordable Care Act, but it will limit plans to areas that have Sentara Healthcare facilities.

Hampton Roads residents who are insured through the ACA will still be able to get medical coverage from Optima Health, although it will come at a price: ACA premiums — for about 70 percent of plan members — will go up about $4 a month, according to an Optima news release.

For the other 30 percent of Optima Health members, premiums will go up even more — about than 81 percent on average. That rise comes, in part, as a planned rate increase, but also due to the uncertainty of “cost sharing reductions” that will no longer be funded after three national companies have withdrawn from the ACA exchange.

The move comes as Anthem Inc, Aetna and UnitedHealthcare Group have exited the ACA exchange, leaving more than 350,000 Virginians without health insurance as of Jan. 1, 2018, according to an Optima Health news release.

College Football: It’s About More Than Rankings

USC’s blind snapper.

If you watch televised college football–as I do upon occasion, even binging sometimes–you get the idea that there are only about 10 teams in the country that matter and that they play in two divisions: Alabama; the other nine.

This past weekend gave the nation a look at the stories that fascinate me, the stories that have nothing to do with the Top 10, except, perhaps, coincidentally. The only story that involved an elite program was, perhaps, the most human: Southern Cal inserted a blind snapper for an extra point because the young man had been a loyal supporter of the program. It was a warm moment of humanity.

Michigan State had a defensive back come back from a stroke to play well and Alabama-Birmingham returned to competition (after cancelling its program) with a paralyzed former recruit introducing the game.

And then, there were the games: UCLA’s 34-point comeback win; the Virginia Tech-West Virginia instant classic in the resumption of a great rivalry; my own Tennessee Vols’ two-overtime win against a much better Georgia Tech team. Liberty (THAT Liberty) beat Baylor (THAT Baylor) and Maryland creamed Football Is God Texas, while Howard–a school in D.C. known as the “Black Harvard,” which requires students to be able to read–dramatically beat UNLV, which doesn’t. Howard was a 45-point underdog. Locally, Washington & Lee was an eyelash from an overtime upset of Division III power Johns Hopkins, both of which require students to be students–and don’t give scholarships for football. (W&L is one of my favorite places to go for a Saturday game–and admission is always free.)

All too often, it is the downside of the weekend card that interests me, the games with story lines beyond where they will rank Monday night. College sports is about kids, students, teams, education and fun. For the upper levels of D1, I think the fun went out of it a long time ago.



Making the U.S. Work: A Simple Solution

Robert Reich, the leftist’s leftist has figured it out to simple six-part solution. Here‘s how those on my side of the political spectrum would like to see the United States work:

1. Public investments in world-class schools and infrastructure for all.

2. Free public universities and first-class technical training for all;

3. Single-payer Medicare-for-All;

4. Higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for this;

5. Using antitrust to break up powerful monopolies on Wall Street, Big Tech, Big Pharma, and Big Agriculture.

6. Getting big money out of our politics.

I would add a seventh: Make gerrymandering much more difficult than it is by creating state panels of equally bi-partisan judges, headed by the state Supreme Court’s top judge. In states where judges are elected (generally along gerrymandered district lines), use public university presidents.

And No. 8: re-install the Fairness Doctrine, which ensures fairness from broadcast media. When a Ronald Reagan-appointed court overturned the Doctrine, it gave rise to Limbaugh/Fox/Hannity and our political system quickly fell apart.

Late Summer, Roaring Run, Happy People

Roaring Run, late summer, 2017.

It was such a gorgeous late summer day today that apparently few who thought about it could resist a trip to Roaring Run up in Botetourt County. Maybe the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen up there and they were hiking, swimming, sliding on the big creek rocks and fishing for native trout.

My relaxed hiking bud, Christine Ward.

People were smiling and kids were behaving–a small miracle in itself. I took a photo of a family at the falls and the 6-year-old son gave me a rock he’d found in the river, asking me if I knew what kind of rock it was. “Oh, it’s a worry rock,” said I. “See how smooth it is on this side? That’s because somebody has rubbed it smooth with his thumb, getting rid of his worries.” The kid was impressed.

My longtime pal Christine accompanied me on the walk and said it was the first time since about 2000 that we’d walked the Run, marveling at how the trail had changed. “They really keep this up, don’t they?” she said.

One of the five bridges crossing the creek.

The obligatory pose on Yoga Rock.

My pal and me at the falls (that white thing behind us).

Shocker of the Day: Liberty 48, Baylor 45 (A Comparison)

It was ugly for those in green.

The biggest news/shock/upset/wildly improbable outcome in college football yesterday had nothing to do with the big-time hotshots (Alabama/Florida State, et al). It was this: Liberty 48, Baylor 45. Jesus (so to speak)!

That’s Liberty, as in Jerry Falwell, and Baylor, as in Ken Star.

Liberty entered the game as a 34.5-point underdog. Liberty is a division lower than Baylor (FCS vs. FBS, though Liberty is making its 2-year transition to FBS), has fewer scholarship players, fewer coaches, a smaller stadium, a fraction of Baylor’s recruiting budget, is located in Virginia, not Texas where great football players grow up, and has never been ranked in the Top 10 teams in the nation, as Baylor frequently has of late. Baylor is a Baptist college; Liberty is Evangelical Christian (Baptist, I think).

Baylor, of course, is trying to recover from one of the most significant rape/sexual harassment/coverup scandals in sports history. It’s coach was fired, President Ken Star (Bill Clinton’s good buddy) and the athletic director resigned. Its ex-coach can’t even get a job in the Canadian Football League.

The Flames have  rarely made much of a mark outside their own bottom-dwelling Big South conference. Liberty was on the road for this game, which drew a more-than-capacity crowd (45,748 in its relatively small 45,000-seat stadium; Liberty’s stadium holds 20,000).

A few more details about these two: Liberty has 80,494 students (the overwhelming majority online), Baylor 16,707; it’s harder to get into Liberty, 21.6 percent acceptance, vs. 43.7; Liberty costs half as much at abut $20,000 a year; Baylor grads earn a lot more, median $48,200 vs. $35,600; Baylor students graduate at a 75 percent rate in six years, vs. 50 percent.

Back to football, there’s this one: Howard (often called “the Black Harvard”), a 45-point underdog, beat UNLV 43-40. That was the biggest point-spread upset in history. Howard’s coach is Mike London, who was the UVa coach until 2014, when he was fired. Howard’s QB is 5-foot-11 Caylin Newton, who did not receive a scholarship offer from a Division I college (Howard is FCS, Division 1AA). He is the little brother of Cam Newton.


A Confusing Lesson About Right and Wrong

Madeline: Right and wrong.

This week my grandgirl Madeline–my favorite person on earth–learned one of life’s difficult lessons: When you do a good deed and mix it with a questionable act, people remember the questionable act.

Maddie stood up for a friend who was being bullied (yay!) and used a vulgarity to put an exclamation point on her defense (boo!). A teacher was within hearing range of the vulgarity and, thus, Maddie was “written up,” whatever the hell that means. In any case, she became a 12-year-old version of Antifa: good intentions, bad delivery.

But I’m her grandfather and as such, I am proud of her without reservation, much as I was of her father when he was kicked out of his fraternity (he’d been president two years) for doing the right thing instead of what a bunch of old white men board members wanted him to do. I suspect he used a memorable vulgarity in response.

Sometimes there just isn’t a better way to say it other than my favorite, “Fuck you, Jack!” It’s the bottom (or the top, depending on your point of view) of our verbal defense line. When used sparingly and unexpectedly, it hits between the eyes like a 2X4. (Who’d expect something like that–and it wasn’t THAT–from a sweet, loving 12-year-old?)

BUT, there’s the Mom/Dad argument against encouraging kids to “cuss.” The common and immediate response is, “Where’d she learn that?” Oh, god, let me count the ways (or sources, as it were). My daughter’s first word–I give you MY word–was “shit.” Where do you imagine she learned that at 1 1/2 or 2? Probably her dad.

Twelve-year-olds are assaulted on all sides with the temptation–and the resources–to shout vulgarities, and my guess is that most of them use those very blue words in excess when disapproving adults aren’t around.

Mostly they’re used to get attention and to fit in. When they’re used to defend a friend, they get my vote. Sorry Mom and Dad. Good for you, Maddie.

Rain: The Misery and the Artistry

Raindrops keep fallin’ on my … spider web.

This web is (was) nasty and contained a bunch of silk-like worms.

I think most of us agree that rain can be misery wrapped in anguish. Ask anybody in South Texas. It can also represent extraordinary beauty (I have some black and white rain photos I shot in Paris that would attest to the point).

It’s been raining for a day here and I hadn’t thought much about it until I went into the back yard this morning and found a lovely spider web holding rain drops and then went out front and saw another web in a tree. The second web was a smidge more menacing, since it’s killing the tree and I had to smash it down. Pretty, though.

Fashion in the NFL: New Helmets Are Rad!

Chargers: My favorite.

My favorite ex-wife Christina used to call me “Mr. Gi-Gi” because of my interest in fashion, whether it be 1960s Manhattan chic, 1930s Paris elegant or football helmet design. It’s the latter we are concerned with here.

Take a look at the 32 newly designed NFL helmets (here) and you see what I mean. The task for designers is a difficult one. They were asked to take the football helmet as a base and then design a logo for it–based on the existing team name and logos–shouting out color, flair, city identity, history and culture.

Green Bay: Cheese or disease?

Some of the teams are so steeped in history that to venture a change is to put your nose on the chopping block (see Cleveland, which has never before had a helmet logo, Chicago and Pittsburgh). Others shout innovation: Chargers, Dolphins, Panthers and two others ask us to believe birds don’t have beaks.

Browns: Finally, a logo. But what is it?

The good, the bad and the ugly include the Chargers No. 2 helmet, the Bengals nonsensical hat, and the Packers’ cheese head (which looks like a bad skin condition). The Lions, Falcons and Giants use tradition to their advantages (always loved the Lions’ unis; the Giants employ the NY skyline and graffiti).

Best ever: Redskins, 1959-1964.

The Saints’ fleur de lis is big and impressive. The Redskins wisely shift away from the Indian head and move back to the feather, which defined the best helmet in NFL history in the 1959-1964 design. The ‘Skins used feathers several times, but never as well as that mid-century design.

Take a look for yourself and make your own decisions. It’s an interesting post.


Happy Birthday, Oz (on the Right Day)

This is the proper business professional way to sleep.

OK, so I don’t do math. I’m a writer, dammit, and that takes all my mental capacity. Yesterday, I wished my grandboy, Oz, happy 6th birthday, forgetting that August doesn’t have 30 days (“30 days have September, April, June and November …”) and assigning Sept. 1 to Aug. 31.

That’s just too damn many numbers for moi. Today is Oz’s birthday and it came in with him doing his business sleep (don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody sleeping with legs crossed in this way–above). But, hey, it’s Oz’s way on Oz’s day.

Happy birthday again, little guy.

(Photo: Kara Smith, Oz’s mom.)