Five ObamaCare Facts and a PSA

For this year’s ObamaCare update, I am sharing five ObamaCare facts.

  1. The Affordable Care Act and ObamaCare refer to the same thing. I hope that’s obvious to you, but it isn’t to everyone–I have seen many a “man on the street” video with folks saying how awful ObamaCare is while in the same breath raving about the healthcare they receive under the Affordable Care Act.
  2. One ObamaCare provision requires your insurer to pay you back a portion of your premiums if they fail to spend a certain amount of their profits on patient care.  This is the second year I have gotten an unexpected check in the mail.
  3. ObamaCare includes a yearly cap on out-of-pocket expenses.  Once you reach that cap, all your care is free.  The cap varies by insurance plan, and this year some of us will should be getting free care in December.
  4. The Affordable Care Act benefits you even if you don’t buy your insurance from the Marketplace or a state exchange.  The ACA made it illegal for insurance companies to refuse to insure you or charge you more due to pre-existing conditions.  This is a big freaking deal, and it is just one example of protections put into place by the ACA that apply to everyone.
  5. Enrollment is NOW OPEN at Healthcare.gov.  If you are already covered by an ACA plan, it’s time to re-enroll.  If you are currently uninsured or unhappy with the insurance you have, you can sign up until December 15, 2019.

For more of my writing on the Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare, see below and click away!

The $64,000 Question, Answered
Who Are the Uninsured?
Uninsured No More
ObamaCare Update
ObamaCare Update 2
ObamaCare:  My Latest Update
ObamaCare Revisited
More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by Obamacare
It’s Good to Be Insured: An ObamaCare Update
Obamacare in Practice:  An Update
An Open Letter to My Friends Who Want to Repeal ObamaCare
Obamacare Update: Good, Bad, and Ugly
Not Repealed and Not Imploding:  An Obamacare Update
ObamaCare Endures, and for That We Are Grateful

Illegal or Unthinkable: One Pro-Life Catholic’s Perspective on How to End Abortion

Confession: I really don’t want to write this post.  Despite evidence to the contrary, I don’t court controversy and don’t enjoy being bombarded by people from both sides of our country’s political divide. And so I’ve been uncomfortable but quiet over the past few weeks as many of my pro-life friends celebrated and most of my pro-choice friends decried the latest laws limiting abortion.

Then I attended my 30-year Georgetown Reunion, and took part in a workshop on Social Justice.  One of the takeaways was that although the need for change can seem overwhelming, and we may wonder what–if any–impact an individual can have, we all have spheres of influence where we can hope to make a difference.  And we were charged with committing to doing what we could within those spheres.

So here I am, y’all.  A blog (and its associated social media) seems like a pretty obvious sphere.  And not writing about the controversy surrounding the new abortion laws is starting to feel like cowardice.  After all, I have a history of writing at the intersection of the Catholic faith and social justice, and even though I have been keeping quiet, it’s not as though I have nothing to say.  So here goes.

The Goal of the Pro-Life Movement

Let’s start with a question: what is the goal of the pro-life movement? I suspect if you asked a pro-choice person, he’d say it’s to make abortion illegal.  On the other hand, if you asked a pro-life person, I’d hope her answer would be that it’s to END abortion.

By itself, outlawing abortion won’t END abortion, because women with means will procure safe illegal abortions while poor women resort to unsafe ones.  Babies–and some mothers–will continue to die.

What we should really want is to make abortion UNTHINKABLE.

Tell me, why don’t you beat your children? Until 1875, there were no laws in the United States to protect them from abuse.  But is that why you don’t beat them, because you are afraid of being caught and arrested? No, you don’t beat them because it is abhorrent and you would never dream of doing such a thing.  That’s how we should want everyone to feel about abortion in the future.

If you think all of the above means that I don’t think abortion should be illegal, you’d be wrong.  If an unborn baby is a human person, then it deserves the same protections as any other human person.  We cannot allow killing an innocent human person to be legal.

The “Heartbeat Laws”

So why am I not enthusiastic about the “Heartbeat Laws” virtually banning abortions (because most women would not find out they were pregnant in time to get one)?  There are a number of reasons and I am here to break them down for you.

These laws have not yet gone into effect and I doubt they ever will.  They were drafted with one goal in mind–and it wasn’t to make abortion  unthinkable.  Rather it was to force a challenge to the Roe v. Wade decision, gambling that the latest conservative-leaning Supreme Court justices will seize this opportunity to overturn it.  AND I DON’T THINK THEY WILL.

These laws are going to be challenged and overturned, as they are currently unconstitutional, as they were designed to be.  Babies will continue to be aborted as the laws make their way through the courts.  If the Supreme Court chooses to take them up–and remember, they can refuse to–I believe they are so extreme (not including the rape and incest exceptions that most Americans–NOT ME–favor) that the justices will uphold Roe v. Wade as settled law.

I might be 100% wrong.  I hope I am.  But remember, even if Roe v. Wade goes away, that leaves many states where abortions will continue to be legal, and where those pro-abortion laws will no doubt become even more entrenched in response.

An Incremental Approach

The legislative approach I prefer is an incremental one.  For example, it’s perfectly licit for a Catholic legislator to vote for an abortion-limiting law that contains exceptions for rape and incest, not because those babies ought to have any fewer rights, but because it is still better than the current situation and such bills have a better chance of passing into law and being upheld by the courts.  In the same vein, there are other laws that could be proposed to limit abortions that the majority of Americans find reasonable.  Laws that limit abortions after a fetus can feel pain, laws requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital, laws regulating abortion clinics in the same manner that other free-standing medical clinics are regulated, laws requiring parental consent:  these are measures that the majority of Americans who are in the mushy middle on abortion can understand and support.

The Mushy Middle

And that’s most Americans.  Most Americans don’t embrace the extreme positions represented in our online debates.  They think abortion is wrong and should be limited but not prohibited before a certain point.  Most Americans would be perfectly happy with unlimited abortion in the first trimester and increasing regulations thereafter, with exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, and to save the mother’s life.

For practicing Catholics (and other pro-life supporters) and extreme pro-choice supporters alike that position doesn’t make any logical sense.  To be clear, if abortion is killing a human being, it is always gravely wrong; and on the opposite end of the argument, if it’s ever acceptable it must be always acceptable.  These are the facts that underlie the entrenched positions of those of us doing most of the arguing, that we cannot ever really get past.  But the position of most Americans on abortion–the folks I call the “mushy middle”–is not rooted in logic.  It’s rooted in their feelings–their feelings of distaste for the procedure AND their feelings of compassion for women in difficult circumstances.

Making Abortion Unthinkable

Those people in the mushy middle are the ones we have to win over if we really want to end abortion.  And we are not winning them over by passing extreme laws.  They are horrified by diagrams of partial-birth abortion, but they are equally horrified at the prospect of twelve-year-old incest victims forced to bear their rapists’ children.  Never mind that both of those scenarios are rare compared to the total number of abortions; they are what we both sides trot out to to try to swat opinions and they end up canceling each other out.

I fear these new laws will take those moderate folks and turn them radical, that they will be more moved by the “my body my choice” argument as they see abortions becoming illegal without the exceptions they largely favor.  And that would be a shame because we have been making progress with them!  Millennials are a more pro-life generation.  People with disabilities are becoming more visible, many of them advocating themselves for their right to be here.  We’ve succeeded in some states at passing more moderate laws limiting abortions.  Clinics have been closing.  Abortion rates have slowed.

So how do we continue the progress we have made?  By helping women.

Respecting All Life

Look, I know that there are lots of folks active in the pro-life movement who are also providing assistance to women and their unborn babies and caring for babies after they are born.  I know all about Catholic Charities.  And I know that I’m not the only pro-life “social justice warrior” in the state of Tennessee, not even close!  I also know that some people who oppose legislation to help the poor are very generous on a personal level.  And while it’s true that people of good will can disagree about the best way to help these women, it’s hard to ignore the statistics in articles like this one demonstrating that abortion rates go down during Democratic administrations.

But this is the reality: women are aborting babies because they don’t have affordable day care, because they don’t have maternity leave, because they don’t have affordable housing, because they are desperate.  Until we fix some of this, abortion will remain the first thought for many desperate women, and the people in the mushy middle will want them to have access to it, thinking that is compassionate.  If every pregnant woman had the support she needed, the perceived need for most abortions would disappear and most Americans wouldn’t see any reason for it anymore.  In time we could look back on the past 40 years and wonder how this ever could have happened and why on earth it took so long to fix it.

I know that most pro-life people really do care about babies, but I also understand why many Americans don’t believe that.   When we vote to end abortion but for caging migrant children,  against health care reform,  for removing welfare funds, and against family leave, we don’t seem pro-life.  We don’t look consistent.  We really make it look like “controlling women’s bodies” is all that we care about.  If we can demonstrate through common-sense, compassionate legislation that we really love them both and that our opposition to abortion is rooted in our respect for ALL life, I believe that’s when we will start to change hearts and minds.

And while legislation may make accessing abortion more difficult, it’s changed hearts and minds that will make abortion unthinkable.

Five Takeaways from the Covington Catholic Controversy

This will be my first–and I hope last–time weighing in on the post-March for Life encounter between MAGA hat-wearing teenagers from an all-boys Catholic school in Kentucky and Native American activists visiting D.C. for the Indigenous Peoples March.  I don’t have definitive answers on the truth of what was actually happening in the viral video (which I will NOT link to), but I do have some observations and thoughts.

What You See Depends on Where You Stand.

That’s pretty obvious, right?  There are dozens of videos of this moment taken from many perspectives; if, for example, you watch one that was filmed from behind the boy who was involved in the face-off with the Native American elder, you wouldn’t see his now-famous face (sporting an expression that has been characterized as both a nervous smile and a smug smirk).  But I’m speaking metaphorically here.

Where do you stand as you consider this encounter?  Are you Catholic? A Southerner? Someone who has participated in Marches for Life?  Do you despise Donald Trump and MAGA hats? Are you Native American?  Have you experienced bullying?  Are you a mother of teenage boys?  Your answers to these questions will determine your predisposition to interpret the video, especially since by the time you watched it you had already read opinions about what was happening from the sources you trust.

We Are Angry About the Wrong Things

Don’t get me wrong–we should absolutely be angry about racism, bullying, misunderstanding, misrepresentations, death threats, disrespect, and many other evils that this video and the furor around it have come to represent.  However, it isn’t our job to be angry about everything everywhere all the time.  Fifteen years ago, no one but the folks involved would ever have known about what happened in those few minutes.  It would have been up to them to make sense of it and to perhaps learn something from it.  Meanwhile the rest of us should spend more time being angry about–and trying to do something about–the injustices that we certainly encounter around us every day.  Would those of us who bravely wield keyboards in the face of injustices five hundred miles away be so ready to actually intervene in person at home when, for example, a co-worker tells a racist joke?

Teenagers Are Not Adults

Teenage boys may look like adults and they may think they are adults but they are not adults.  Their brains are not finished developing.  They have poor impulse control.  They tend to follow the crowd.

Our criminal justice system recognizes this by having a separate system to govern underage crime.  We don’t execute teenagers or give them life sentences.  We recognize that they can be rehabilitated.

If these boys are guilty of the worst possible interpretation of the video, they are still boys.  Stupid teenage boys who can learn to be better.  I’ll bet you knew some people who were, frankly, assholes in high school who grew up to be pretty good folks.  You might even have been one of them!  I know I’m a better person now than I was when I was a teenager.  Should they suffer consequences? Make reparations?  Absolutely! Should they receive death threats and have their lives ruined forever?  I don’t think so.

It Is Not Wrong to Extend Mercy to the Privileged

I have read several posts from writers who have walked back their original interpretation of the encounter and have decided to give the Covington boys the benefit of the doubt.  And I have seen those same folks attacked because they are giving privileged white boys that which is denied to other sectors of the population.  If you doubt that these boys are privileged, imagine the exact same scenario only with a big group of African-American boys from a D.C. public school.  Would the reaction be the same?  Would those boys be interviewed on the Today Show and be invited to the White House?  I expect some of the very same people who are defending the Covington boys would assume the worst about these hypothetical black boys.

Some seem to be saying that fairness demands we assume the worst about everyone.  But look, y’all, what we should be shooting for is a society that gives EVERYONE the benefit of the doubt.

Catholic Students on a Field Trip to the March for Life Should Not Wear MAGA Hats

Nor should they wear I’m with Her hats or Yes We Can hats or any other kind of political hats.  They should wear their school uniforms, if you ask me, or matching t-shirts identifying themselves as students at a Catholic school.  And they should remember that when they are in uniform, they are representing the Church and act accordingly.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Election Day Redux

Confession time:  I am still not over the 2016 Presidential Election.  I don’t know that I will ever really get over it.  To go from euphoria to despair in just a few short hours, and then to see many of my fears realized over the past two years–it has truly been a demoralizing time for many of us.
Still, hope springs eternal.  And it has been exciting and energizing to see so many people voting this year.
Last year I wore my closest approximation of a pantsuit in tribute to Hillary.  Here is this year’s voting ensemble, a tribute to my political homelessness:
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Election Day is a holiday for public school students, so Lorelei accompanied me to the polls.  She’s almost 14, but she still likes pressing the button for me.
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In 2016, Emily was also with us, and the three of us celebrated what we expected to be an historic occasion by visiting the women’s suffrage statue in Market Square and then breakfasting at Pete’s.  This year, Emily voted early because she had to be out of town today.  But Lorelei and I still went out to breakfast, this year at First Watch, just down the road a piece.
And now, it’s time to watch the returns, and the kids are calling me.  We’ve done all we can do.
Election 3

Obamacare Endures, and for That We Are Grateful: An Update

Well, it’s that time of year:  Open Enrollment is upon us.  It’s a time I both dread and welcome.  I dread the clunky website and the endless data entry and the long but usually helpful calls to customer service, but I welcome the opportunity to once again share with you my gratitude for the blessing that Obamacare has been to our family.

As I wrote in last year’s update, Blue Cross returned to the exchange, and Humana left.  There were two good results for us:  one of our doctors that we see regularly was back in network, and our premium was so low that Advance Premium Tax Credit covered the whole thing.  Yes, you read that correctly:  our monthly payment was reduced to zero.  On the negative side, our deductible went up to (I think) 1350 per person, and John has still not met his.  And even after the deductible is met, we are now on a 50-50 plan instead of the 80-20 we had become used to–and this was the only choice we had.

We haven’t had major medical expenses this year, so we have made out just fine with this plan.  I haven’t run the numbers, but my sense is that not having to pay a premium made up for the higher deductible, especially since we still get the negotiated rate advantage on all our prescriptions.  But we got a letter the other day saying that this plan is going away and we are going to have to pick a different Blue Cross plan for next year.  These changes do get old, but my preview of Healthcare.gov last week left me hopeful–we have several plans to pick from and they look as good as what we have currently.

Another bright spot was a letter I received from Humana (last year’s insurer) a few weeks ago–a letter that included a check refunding us a portion of our premiums!  Apparently a little-known aspect of the ACA requires that if insurers earn over a certain amount of profits, they must refund a percentage of the premiums paid.  Yes, you read that right–under the terms of this imploding law that is so bad for insurance companies and consumers alike, Humana ended up doing so well that they had to give me money back!

So, yes, no matter what you may have been hearing in the news, Obamacare lives on, and is still helping people, with all its flaws.  It needs changes but it doesn’t need to be repealed.  And the constant uncertainty caused by the GOP threats to get rid of it isn’t helping anyone.  I know it hasn’t been the unadulterated blessing it has been for us for some of my readers, and I am sorry for that.  But I continue to believe it is important for me to share the positive experiences that the ACA has brought to this previously uninsured family.

2019 TN
For more of my writing on the Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare, see below and click away!
The $64,000 Question, Answered
Who Are the Uninsured?
Uninsured No More
ObamaCare Update
ObamaCare Update 2
ObamaCare:  My Latest Update
ObamaCare Revisited
More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by Obamacare
It’s Good to Be Insured: An ObamaCare Update
Obamacare in Practice:  An Update
An Open Letter to My Friends Who Want to Repeal ObamaCare
Obamacare Update: Good, Bad, and Ugly
Not Repealed and Not Imploding:  An Obamacare Update

Not Repealed and Not Imploding: An ObamaCare Update

When last I wrote on the topic of healthcare back in February, I envisioned writing many posts on the ACA this year.  I was HOT.  I wanted to showcase some stories (besides mine) of people who have been helped by the law, and I wanted to encourage activism to prevent its repeal.
But I find my capacity for outrage is finite, and the constant barrage of bad news on this topic and others has stretched it to the limit.  ObamaCare has survived almost an entire year without Obama, with little help from me other than the occasional Resistbot letter to my Congressmen (who voted in favor of every lame proposal thrown up by the GOP this year despite my pleas).
In just a couple of weeks I’ll be back on the ACA website, and I wanted to tell y’all a little about the way this year–on a new plan–has gone for us.  I want my readers to see at least one story that demonstrates that the ACA is NOT imploding (Yes, it needs revision.  I have always said that) and that it is still helping people.
In addition to regular checkups for John, Emily, Teddy, and me, we’ve had some expensive extras that would have either been out of reach when we were uninsured or would have thrown us deep into medical debt had we chosen to go forward with them.  Back in March, John developed bursitis.  He went to the doctor three times–including twice to a specialist–and the chiropractor once, had two sets of X rays and an MRI, and got a cortisone shot and several medications.  All this helped us to meet our deductible early in the year (we are still paying for the MRI), but we wouldn’t have gotten in the door to run up these bills if we didn’t have insurance.  I cannot stress this often enough:  insurance equals ACCESS!
In September, John’s doctor was concerned with some symptoms he was having and ordered an EKG, and then sent him to a cardiologist for further testing.  I haven’t seen the bills yet for the stress test and heart ultrasound performed at the hospital and two visits to the cardiologist (he’s fine, by the way), but I know that we will only be paying 20% of the negotiated rate.  Insurance equals LOWER PRICES!
I had my first mammogram this year, and am scheduled for my first colonoscopy in November.  If I didn’t have insurance, rest assured I would not be getting these screening tests performed.
Finally, last week I noticed some discomfort and a coating on my tongue.  I was pretty sure I had an oral fungal infection.  Did I wait to see if it got better on its own?  Did I look for home remedies? That’s what I would have done and did do, back in my uninsured days.  No, I called the doctor and made an appointment IMMEDIATELY, got some medication, and felt better after two doses.  Being able to go to the doctor right away is a privilege I do not take for granted.
Have we had issues with the ACA this year?  Certainly.  Due to quirks in the sign up process, we were not allowed to insure Jake.  So when he wanted to go to the doctor in September, he went as a self-paying patient.  However, the fact that he has been insured the past three years meant that he had a relationship with our doctor, and she was willing to see him and even give us a discount for paying the whole bill up front.
Also, I don’t much like having to get my prescriptions at Food City with its limited hours; but on the other hand its small size means a very personal touch that I didn’t always experience at Walgreens, and a relationship with the actual pharmacist.
Look for another update after I undergo the tribulations of Healthcare.gov.  Last I heard, Blue Cross will be making a reappearance in the Marketplace, but I have no idea whether our former plan will still be available or how much the rates may rise.
For more of my ObamaCare stories, see below and click away!
The $64,000 Question, Answered
Who Are the Uninsured?
Uninsured No More
ObamaCare Update
ObamaCare Update 2
ObamaCare:  My Latest Update
ObamaCare Revisited
More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by Obamacare
It’s Good to Be Insured: An ObamaCare Update
Obamacare in Practice:  An Update
An Open Letter to My Friends Who Want to Repeal ObamaCare
Obamacare Update: Good, Bad, and Ugly
 

A Confederate General's Great-great-great-granddaughter Speaks Out

I was eight years old, curled up on the naugahyde sofa in my grandmother’s basement, when I found my great-grandmother’s copy of Gone with the Wind, the commemorative movie edition.   I read it literally to pieces and I can recite the entire first paragraph by heart.
gone with the wind cover
In grade school I was taught that the Civil War, to my surprise at the time, was NOT inspired primarily by the desire to continue to enslave African-Americans, but by an argument over States’ Rights.
My great-great-great-grandfather was a Confederate brigadier general, and I was raised on family legends of his valor.

Col. James Hagan
My ggggrandfather Confederate General James D. Hagan, who was born in Ireland.

Up until my house burned down, I owned a small Confederate battle flag, which at one time I displayed along with the flags of the United States, Scotland, and Ireland, a small tribute to my ethnic heritage as I understood it at the time.
This is where I come from.  I am proud to be a Southerner.  In my blog bio, I describe myself first of all as “Catholic and Southern.”  That’s at the core of who I am.
Like many Southerners, particularly those with ancestors who served in the Confederate army, I feel an attachment to statues like the one in Charlottesville.  But the character of those who rallied on Saturday in protest prove that its removal is necessary.  This confederacy of dunces would have been denounced by General Lee, who was not even in favor of secession, and by James Hagan, who was repatriated and worked for the U.S. government for the fifteen years prior to his death.
Emily on the General's Grave
My oldest child, Emily, at the grave of her great-great-great-great-grandfather, General James D. Hagan

 
As his descendant, I disavow and repudiate the Unite the Right protesters and anyone who shares their hateful beliefs in the strongest of terms, and I call upon all descendants of Confederate soldiers to join me in condemning them.  They don’t represent the South and we don’t need these modern-day Carpetbaggers to tell us how best to preserve our heritage.
We do no honor to the memory of the Confederate dead by supporting disgusting displays of racism.  I do not judge my ancestors as harshly as some might– they were the product of a different time.  But that time is long past.  If you feel that Robert E. Lee deserves to be honored and remembered for valiantly fighting for what he believed in–his home state of Virginia–then do what he asked after the fighting ended: “Remember, we are all one country now. Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring [your children] up to be Americans.
 

Love Thee, Notre Dame: Teddy's Graduation

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We’ve just returned from an epic weekend of graduation festivities as Teddy’s Notre Dame adventure has come to a close.  Four years flew by, as they are wont to do when you have kids, and it won’t be long before I’ll be writing a melancholy post about having a child leave the nest for good to start adult life very far away.
But I won’t go there today! This weekend was fun and I didn’t feel melancholy, or too stressed, or anxious, or any other way I expected to feel.  And I took lots of pictures!
We (and by “we” I mean me, John, Emily, William, and Lorelei) left Knoxville Thursday night and drove about halfway, stopping in Florence, Kentucky just outside Cincinnati.  This enabled us to get a (relatively) early start the next morning and make it to Notre Dame by around three, because Teddy had plans for John and me.
We left the “little people” (which is surely a ridiculous thing to call them at this point) with Emily, who took them out to eat at a conveniently located (actually in the parking lot of the hotel!) Asian restaurant and then to the hotel pool, and headed for campus, where one of Teddy’s favorite political science professors had invited him and other students to attend a Mass and reception.  This event was really for kids who were in a program that Teddy was not a part of, but it was lovely to start off the weekend with Mass in one of Notre Dame’s many beautiful residence hall chapels and then to meet some of his professors.
We didn’t get to stay long, though, because we had another event to attend.  This one was a party hosted by Scott Malpass, Notre Dame’s CIO, for students in a program he sponsors at the university.  These students were allowed to invite some of their friends, which was how we ended up at this utterly amazing party held downtown at Cafe Navarre.
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Alcohol of all kinds flowed freely, along with canapes, caviar, a raw bar, a full buffet dinner . . . y’all, it was insane.  Many people were having a VERY good time, and I enjoyed the people-watching and the music as well as the food.
Predictably, John and I tired of this before Teddy did, so we left him there and went back to the hotel, to get some sleep before the next full day of activities.
The next morning we were all invited to brunch at someone’s lake house, but I bowed out of that and Teddy took John, Jake, and Jessica (that’s Jake’s girlfriend–they had arrived late the night before and were crashing with Teddy at the house where he lived off campus with several friends).  The rest of us drove over to campus because Lorelei and William had never seen the place and I wanted to show them a couple of things.
We started at the Grotto, then walked up to the Basilica, made sure we saw the Golden Dome, and stopped by Teddy’s residence hall, Saint Edward’s (called Steds by the boys, and the oldest one on campus).  Then we took a short walk by one of the lakes.  Notre Dame’s campus is huge, so if you are ever up that way and have limited time to spend, those are the sights I recommend you see.  Of course, I took some pictures:
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Then it was back to the hotel to change clothes and meet up with the rest of our people and time for the serious stuff to begin.
First up was the Political Science Senior Recognition Ceremony.  Teddy is a Business School grad, but he double-majored in Finance and Poli Sci.  We enjoyed this relatively short and low-key ceremony, where we were encouraged to clap and walk down as close as we could get to take pictures.


From here we walked straight across the parking lot to the Joyce Center, where so many of the events that have made up our Notre Dame experiences have taken place.  We were attending the Baccalaureate Mass in the Purcell Pavilion, and we wanted to get there early enough to find a seat and avoid being placed in the overflow room.
We sat very high in the arena and had an hour to wait for Mass to begin. (There was a LOT of sitting and a LOT of waiting over this weekend, y’all!)  There was music to make it more bearable–throughout the weekend the musicians were amazing and added so much to the experience.
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There’s something special about attending Mass with thousands of other people.  And, as always, we ended by singing the Alma Mater.  I’ve said this before, but anyone you’ve ever heard complaining about Notre Dame’s lack of Catholic identity can’t have ever been there.
Next we attended a much-anticipated event:  a catered dinner in the vacant lot across from the row of house where Teddy and 15 of his friends spent their Senior year.  This event was planned by one of the mothers and many other families pitched in to help with the arrangements.  I’ve met some of the mothers before, and it was great to get to see them again.
All the family joined us for this celebration, as well as my friend Mary Jo, who was in town visiting family.  It was certainly a highlight of the weekend to catch up with her, and she came back to the hotel with us when the kids grew weary and wanted to leave (we left John and Jake and Jessica there with Teddy and they continued to have a great time!).
The threat of bad weather hung over the entire weekend, and it was raining pretty hard when we left the party (thankfully we had sprung for tents!).  The administration decided to delay the start time of the commencement ceremony the next morning, for which we were very grateful!
Because of tight security, we needed to arrive around 8 a.m. and wait in a VERY long line (it moved pretty quickly, though).  There were many items we were not allowed to bring inside, including umbrellas–but rain ponchos were provided! (It sprinkled at one point for maybe five minutes.)  Once inside and seated we had a long wait ahead but it wasn’t so bad as there was music and several screens with pictures of the graduates lining up outside the stadium.
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As is customary, the ceremony began with the academic procession, which took awhile as there were 2,081 graduates plus the faculty who had to get to their seats.  Here is a picture showing the Business School candidates starting to come in.
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The ceremony followed the usual predictable format for such events.  If you’ve ever been to one you don’t need a description.  I came expecting to be bored, to be honest.  But I was wrong–very wrong–and this turned out to be a highlight of the weekend for all of us.
It started with the introduction of Vice-President Pence, who was the Commencement speaker.  Around 100 kids stood up and quietly left the stadium as part of a previously planned protest.  This wasn’t a surprise to many people, including the administration, who had already indicated there would be no repercussions for those who chose to participate, but it was a surprise to me!
Before you ask, no, Teddy did not walk out.  And while I don’t have any issue with peaceful protests, I have a feeling Mr. Pence (who graciously took no notice of the protest and gave a largely unobjectionable, if unremarkable, speech) was more impacted by the other two speeches we heard than by the walkout.
The valedictory address was amazing.  What kind of bravery must it take for a 22-year-old to stand on the same stage with the man who may well be President one day and say, “Our generation must stand against the scapegoating of Muslims. Our concern for freedom of religion must mean freedom for all religions, not just our own, otherwise none of us is free. . . . If we are going to build walls between American students and international students, then I am skewered on the fence . . . Our mission calls us to act on behalf of justice. It is precisely in response to the suffering of Syrian refugees, fleeing war, that the arms of Jesus outstretched on God Quad call for a courageous response.”
And then there were the words of Laetare medal winner Father Greg Boyle (who is a Jesuit so I already had a soft spot in my heart for him): “You go from here to dismantle the barriers that exclude.  And there’s only one way to do that: and that is to go where the joy is, which is at the margins, for if you stand at the margins, that’s the only way they’ll get erased, and you stand with the poor, and the powerless and the voiceless. You stand with those whose dignity has been denied, and you stand with those whose burdens are more than they can bear, and you will go from here and have this exquisite privilege once in a while to be able to stand with the easily despised and the readily left out, with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop, and with the disposable, so the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”
We all felt blessed to have had the opportunity to hear such wisdom, and that’s what I am still thinking about days later.
One unfortunate consequence of the rain delay is that there was no time for lunch before the next and thankfully last event:  the Mendoza College of Business Diploma Ceremony, otherwise known as the ceremony that wouldn’t end.
Y’all, this is the one where they call out the names.  I don’t know how many names there were but it was a lot.  We were there for an hour waiting for it to begin on extremely uncomfortable bleachers, and then I think it was at least 2.5 hours before Teddy’s name was called and there were about an hour’s worth left to go.
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I felt rude but I couldn’t stand it.  I took Lorelei and William out and went to the student center and got them snacks and drinks.  Then I went back inside to watch Teddy walk out and then thank God in Heaven it was over and time to take pictures!
Teddy (and I) would have appreciated a more scenic background but we were pressed for time and there were members of our party for whom walking long distances is an issue.  Jake was like, “Here’s a nice tree.  Stand in front of it,” and we got the whole thing done in maybe five minutes.
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And now, AT LAST, it was dinner time!
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Y’all have heard of Studebakers, right?  My Uncle Charlie had one MANY years ago, as I recall.  Well, they were once manufactured in South Bend, and the guy who founded the company lived in this 40 room mansion.
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Only now it’s a restaurant–Tippecanoe Place–and I hope y’all will indulge me because I just couldn’t stop taking pictures:

I didn’t get any interior pictures except for the group shot below because it just seemed kind of awkward but it was as beautiful as you might imagine–grand staircases, marble fireplaces, fancy woodwork everywhere.  And the food largely lived up to the surroundings, as did the service.  It was the perfect special spot to end our celebration.
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Teddy (who I should tell you goes by Theo everywhere other than with family and old friends) graduated summa cum laude.  He received the Raymond P. Kent award for outstanding work in Finance courses.  He’s had a job lined up for months and will be heading to San Francisco in July to start work as an investment banking analyst.  As this chapter closes, a new adventure is just beginning for him.
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ObamaCare Update: Good, Bad, and Ugly

Writing about our ObamaCare experiences with the future of the program so much in doubt seems almost pointless, but I did promise to keep honestly updating you so here’s the latest.

Learning that Blue Cross was pulling out of the Marketplace in our area was really scary.  We were used to everything about the plan after three years and were happy with it.  I wasn’t looking forward to getting onto the (terrible, still) Healthcare.gov site and having to compare all the plans like I had to do when we first signed up.

Turns out I didn’t have to worry about that, because when I finally got through the approximately three hours over three days of attempts and two phone calls it took me to update my application (yes, really), I had one choice and one choice only.

We have Humana now and before I get into the nitty gritty of the pros and cons of that, can I just mention that Humana announced that they too will be pulling out of the Marketplace in 2018?  Which will leave us . . . where?  I don’t even exactly know.  If someone else were in charge of the country I’d be confident it would be fixed by then.  As it is . . . well, I am not going to worry about it yet because what’s the point.

So here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly update:

I guess the ugly would be that even though Jake is under 26 and should be eligible to be covered by our insurance, and even though we’ve been allowed to include a non-dependent child of the proper age in the past, the system flat out refused to let me sign up with him included.  And the nice person on the phone said it was because he isn’t a dependent for tax purposes, but right there ON THE WEBSITE INSTRUCTIONS it said he was still eligible.  But none of us were going to get covered if I didn’t take him off.  So then I tried to apply for him on his own, but because our governor in his “wisdom” declined the Medicaid expansion (which is also why we are losing insurers), Jake’s one of the unlucky who fall into the hole between being eligible for Medicaid and qualifying for a subsidy, which makes no sense, but whatever.  So what that means is that he cannot afford to pay for the high deductible catastrophic plan he was offered, and is currently uninsured until he has another opportunity to sign up at work (which he didn’t do at the proper time BECAUSE WE WERE COVERING HIM).  Hopefully he will qualify for one of the many exceptions to the mandate and won’t have to pay a fine come next year’s tax time.

And now for the bad:  Our deductible had been ridiculously low–$300 per person, $600 per family.  We were able to knock it out in a month or two mostly with prescriptions.  This year it’s $900/$1800.  I know that’s still way lower than many people so I shouldn’t complain too much.  The other bad thing is that some of our doctors–specifically, our mental health professionals–are out of network.  And since we are not going to change psychologists, we will be paying out of pocket for that.  Happily, our provider is working with us and charging what insurance would pay him if we had it; but that’s still $45 more a week than we were paying before.  Finally, Walgreens doesn’t take Humana, if you can believe it.  The closest pharmacy that does is Food City.  So I had to transfer about a million (give or take) prescriptions, and will have to actually WALK INSIDE to get our medicines, and do so before 7 p.m.

But there is also some good, some of it actually very good.  Our premium dropped by $450.  We are paying $241 a month! (By the way, this is for four people, as William and Lorelei are still on TennCare even though we have tried to sign them up with the rest of us.)  And there is no deductible for prescriptions–they are covered immediately.  They might be slightly more expensive but I got thirteen medications for about $65 so I’m calling that a good deal.  Of course that means they won’t apply to the deductible so it’s going to take longer to meet it, but all and all I wouldn’t be surprised if our overall costs end up being lower this year.

So there you have it.  We shall enjoy it while we can and I will update you if anything interesting happens. 🙂

P.S.  When anyone calls ObamaCare a failure, direct them here.  It has problems, it needs fixing, but it has helped us and many others.  It needs to be REPAIRED, not REPEALED.

For more of my ObamaCare stories, see below and click away!

The $64,000 Question, Answered

Who Are the Uninsured?

Uninsured No More

ObamaCare Update

ObamaCare Update 2

ObamaCare:  My Latest Update

ObamaCare Revisited

More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by Obamacare

It’s Good to Be Insured: An ObamaCare Update

Obamacare in Practice:  An Update

An Open Letter to My Friends Who Want to Repeal ObamaCare