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Now that something bad happened to Rick Scott’s mother, he’ll be nicer to yours.
Feb 21st, 2013 by Dr Karma

In January, I heard a story about Florida Governor Rick Scott’s efforts to oppose the expansion of Medicaid in his state: http://m.npr.org/news/U.S./169060335.

The story was frustrating for several reasons. I have many relatives in Florida without health insurance. They don’t have very much money and thus would likely be eligible to benefit from this expansion. When I lived in Florida as an adult, I was also unable to get health insurance, as I was turned down due to pre-existing conditions. I worked full time for years without coverage. I got two undergraduate degrees and a masters without insurance. I worked for Florida State University both full-time before grad school and as a graduate student, with no health insurance.

It sucked. The inability to have a regular doctor guaranteed trips to the emergency room, the inability to effectively manage my conditions (including my asthma, which left me vulnerable and close to death quite a few times), and a reliance on samples of medication given to me by sympathetic poor-people-clinic doctors who applied the free drugs like bandaids to a gunshot wound.

In fact, one of the reasons I moved to California was because my university offered me healthcare, and I needed it. I couldn’t breathe, due to allergies and severe asthma. I missed too much work when my lungs closed. I had migraines. I was also starting to have trouble walking and immense back pain–at age 24. It was only when I was in California that I was able to be put on medications that control my asthma–I haven’t had to sleep with my rescue inhaler in my hand like I used to in The Sunshine State. It was only when I came here that I was able to get the tests to show that I had a severely herniated disc and that I needed surgery immediately. Obviously, finding out I needed surgery would have been pointless in Florida–I wouldn’t have been able to afford it (not that it was completely affordable here–I spent 1/3rd of my gross income that year on medical expenses and am still paying down debt from back then). My back pain would have increased–I would have likely ended up on disability, after going bankrupt trying to figure out what was wrong first.

Governor Scott was arguing that even though the federal government covers 100% of the costs of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years and 90% after that, that it was too expensive for Florida to help the poorest Floridians in this way. Independent agencies argued with his numbers, noting that he was ignoring important factors, like how expensive it is for taxpayers when people like me end up in the ER. His Congress told him his numbers were wrong.

After fighting and fighting and fighting, he revised his numbers to about 10th his original net cost estimate.

Yesterday, he did a full reversal and has committed to allowing the federal government help those in need in his state for at least three years: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/02/20/172523730/in-reversal-florida-gov-rick-scott-agrees-to-medicaid-expansion :

“‘Quality health care services must be accessible and affordable for all — not just those in certain ZIP codes or tax brackets,’ he said at the briefing. ‘No mother, or father, should despair over whether or not they can afford — or access — the health care their child needs. While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.'”

He also said that the death of his mother helped put things into perspective.

Governor Scott was not governor when I was in Florida. I’m glad he’s been able to use tragedy positively–to allow himself to gain empathy and clarity.

I just wish politicians like Scott were touched by the rest of us, instead of just by what seems to affect their own families.

When I was struggling in Florida, I was someone’s mother. Although it may have given my son a lesson in basic universal rights and strengthened his ability to empathize, it would have been terrible for him to lose me to a preventable asthma attack or the pneumonia that almost took me away from him. He already had to deal with a mommy who said, “I’m sorry; I can’t pick you up, baby.” You see, even though he was still light as a young elementary student, there was no way the mystery pain in my back would allow me to play with him with the way I wanted to.

Governor Scott, the citizens this Medicaid program will help are my mother, my aunts and uncles, my cousins. They were always special to me. I was always special to them. We have always deserved to have access to the healthcare that could keep us alive, working, and supporting each other.

I’m glad you might finally see that.

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The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart–review
Feb 3rd, 2013 by Dr Karma

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing a performance by The National Theatre of Scotland–The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart. It was staged at our Mondavi Center. The play, when performed in Scotland, is often done in pubs and other common houses. They thus transformed the studio theatre into a pub, complete with a bar and tables. We were greeted with a free shot of Benromach Single Malt Scotch Wiskey and told that all seats were good seats, as the actors would be moving between the tables throughout the performance.

The play incorporated music (each actor could sing, dance, and play at least one instrument) and verse–although it’s uncommon for large portions of contemporary plays to be in verse, it worked somehow here.

The story was simple–Prudencia is a scholar off at a conference. Her methods are traditional–she looks for the stories in old ballads, rather than writing up scholarship on tweets or being a post-post-structuralist like her contemporaries. Her desire to flee from a disastrous roundtable discussion is thwarted by a snow storm. Hours later, her desire to flee from a bacchanalian pub (with strip karaoke) is also thwarted–she is lost in the snow at midnight. She has already been warned that it happens to be the night when the devil may prowl for souls, so she is happy to retreat to a bed and breakfast with its innkeeper, who promises her warmth and use of his large library. The unassuming man also compliments her scholarship . . .

And that’s all it takes for the Devil himself to capture a female scholar.

Prudencia’s current project is actually on hell (including its erotics), so she is disappointed to be trapped for millennia in a bed and breakfast library overlooking a costco parking lot, despite having every book ever written at her disposal. Over the centuries, she comes to know the devil, changing bodily form and all. She is finally able to seduce him, as he does in fact love her. As she escapes, she finds the rip in time that will take her back to the night she was stolen. One of her fellow scholars is out looking for her–although he mocks her work, it is only to cover his own being smitten. She knows enough from the ballads to be able to talk him through the rescue & they return to the bar, where she is able to finally sing her song.

The play was funny, energetic, often satiric, moving, and inventive in its use of traditional myth and current popular culture.

The end, which featured a slow, almost a cappella version of Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” sung to the devil in the back of a crowded pub, was one of the most hauntingly beautiful theatrical moments I’ve ever witnessed.

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