Borderless News And Views
Is Health Insurance Ever Going to Be Perfect?

Hearing the words “Obamacare” and “Affordable Care Act” strikes confusion into the minds of many Americans as the quest for the best health insurance plan continues for many.

People hear these terms and how health care and health insurance will be affected, but often times the outlook and options are misunderstood. The public wonders if health insurance will ever be perfect and what their coverage will look like in a few years.

Health insurance has become a challenging thing for many individuals and families.

As the following article wonders, are “Health insurance premiums likely to rise in 2015?”

Do we know what’s coming? What exactly is the Affordable Care Act and who is covered?

We see many news articles regarding the ACA and changes to look out for. Some of it can be quite confusing.

Affordable Care Act

Obamacare and the ACA (Affordable Care Act) are one in the same.

It is all about government laws on health care reform in an attempt to try to provide more Americans with affordable health care.

Healthcare So that this plan can reach all Americans, some of the initiatives cover preventive services and immunizations at no out of pocket costs, covering dependents up to age 26 (this gives young adults more time to find jobs, get post-secondary education and their own coverage while staying under their parents’ coverage), and providing assistance to those with preexisting conditions that are having trouble finding insurers. Out of pocket expenses will have a cap on them as well.

Changes are still happening with these programs, though many of them became instilled in 2014.

For instance, in 2015, small businesses will have to provide coverage to full-time workers if they employ a certain amount.

Will Everyone Really Be Covered?

Amongst the latest news of the world, the public often hears of the high numbers of Americans still struggling with health care.

According to a report from thinkprogress.org, more than 9 million people who were previously uninsured have received coverage through Obamacare.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans are still left uncovered, including many poor blacks, low wage workers and single mothers, mostly in Southern states.

According to a New York Times piece, these people live in states “largely controlled by Republicans that have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid, the medical insurance program for the poor, they are among the eight million Americans who are impoverished, uninsured and ineligible for help.”

Because states have chosen not to expand Medicare coverage, the subsidies are not reaching the huge numbers of people with low or no incomes are being left out of the health care system and the ACA.

Unfortunately, the real issue is that many of those who need the most help are those being left out.

Statistics in the above article are showing that it’s even more than the 8 million cited, but closer to 14 million people who live in poverty and still have no health care.

About the Author: Heather Legg is an independent writer covering topics on health care, education and small businesses.



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The State of the Mortgage

Looking to buy a home? Believe it or not, it might be easier than it’s been during the last two decades to secure a mortgage from financial institutions.

home-priceAccording to a survey of senior loan officers commissioned by the Federal Reserve, at negative 18.3 percent, the net percentage for prime mortgages was the lowest it’s been since the central bank started tracking it in 2007. The number was also higher than comparable numbers in the 1990s and 2000s, according to Bloomberg.

But have no fear; we’re not in for another bubble-bursting scenario, at least according to analysts at JP Morgan Chase.

“The magnitude of the tightening during the crisis was so extreme that it dwarfs recent changes,” the analysts wrote in a report. “Just because a large percentage of survey respondents said that they were loosening standards doesn’t mean that they were loosening them by a large amount.”

I Saw You – With a Mortgage in Your Hand

On top of the bank’s loosening their standards, here’s another gem for those looking to secure mortgages: Freddie Mac recently announced that the average rate of a 30-year mortgage dropped slightly from 4.14 to 4.12 percent, while the rate of a 15-year mortgage declined from 3.27 percent to 3.24 percent. Both of those rates are lower than they were at this time last year.

While all of this news appears great for those who are looking to buy homes, it appears as though the millennial generation – typical defined as those born between 1980 and 2000 – are not yet showing a fervor when it comes to buying a home.

As such, the private mortgage market is currently valued at $1 trillion, about half of what it would be in a standard economic climate, according to Anthony Hsieh, CEO of loanDepot, a company that offers mortgage services

“Private capital is not back into the mortgage marketplaces, and this is seven years after the crisis,” explains Hsieh. “Credit has not been widened or deepened, and there isn’t enough product innovation to offer loans to this generation. The only programs are still regulated very tightly by the government.”

To Buy or Not To Buy? That is the Question

New home sales have suffered lately, falling 8.1 percent in the month of June. Obviously, as the housing market goes, so too goes the rest of the economy. As such, it’s important that financiers consider making the barriers for first-time homebuyers fewer and fewer.

Facing a difficult job market, the prospect of seemingly insurmountable student loan debt and wages that generally don’t keep up with inflation, millennials certainly have their work cut out for them when it comes to finding the means to become a homeowner, thus fulfilling the American dream.

If the millennials don’t end up becoming major players in the housing market, what does that bode for the future of the country? It doesn’t take a Nobel laureate or distinguished economist to understand how such a scenario could adversely impact the entirety of the economy.

So what? If you’re in the market to buy a home for the first time, you should take it as a good sign that mortgage rates are slipping to lows. But how much further will those rates go down?

To protect their livelihood, financiers need millennials to take out loans. The main question about mortgage rates is slowly becoming evident: How long can they go?



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Texas’ School Marshals Program the First of Its Kind

In a move that will almost certainly be divisive, the state of Texas has just finished training its first class of armed school marshals. The goal is to do for the nation’s public schools what air marshals did for airlines in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

Like air marshals, school marshals are meant to remain anonymous, with only school personnel aware of their identities. Each one is either a teacher or a member of the school’s administrative staff.

The Lesser Evil

For some time now, schools across the country have been investing in tougher measures to prevent life-threatening situations or, should the worst come to pass, ways to ensure that the situation can be dealt with quickly. These have typically included perimeter fences, bulletproof glass, and more advanced security cameras.

In addition, 18 states now allow adults to carry concealed guns on school grounds. But unlike a general concealed carry permit, Texas’ school marshal program is a great deal more structured, with a dedicated – and apparently “rigorous” – training course. In addition, each marshal’s gun is to remain locked up until it’s needed – accessible, but comfortably out of sight. A deterrent, but never a distraction.

The initiative is a product of 2013’s Protection of Texas Children Act, which gives schools the authority to designate their own marshals – as many as one for every 400 students.

Make no mistake: this training is a serious business. Each would-be school marshal must already be a member of the school’s faculty, must possess a concealed carry permit, must pass a psychological evaluation, and is required to attend an 80-hour training program at a certified police academy.

The ideal solution would have been to station a police officer at each school, but such a solution would have been “prohibitively expensive,” said Texas state representative Jason Villalba.

Voice of Dissent

School classroomThere’s no denying that the initiative is a complicated and controversial one. This fact is underscored by the fact that one of the men who wrote the marshal training curriculum, Police Chief Craig Miller, has strong reservations about introducing concealed weapons.

He acknowledges that school shootings, while devastating, are actually exceptionally rare, despite the inevitable media circus and hysteria that follows. Miller says that, following the Sandy Hook shooting, the emphasis was placed on installing more robust physical security devices such as cameras, intercoms, and card readers.

Nevertheless, the marshal training program is not the first of its kind; the 2007 Texas Guardian Plan also allowed school faculty to carry concealed firearms, but placed no restrictions on how many adults could be armed at a given time.

The “Gun-Free” Fallacy

Some people won’t be at all surprised that Texas was first out of the gate with efforts to arm teachers and administrators, while others will question the wisdom of introducing loaded firearms into heretofore “gun-free” zones.

Here’s the thing: if gun-free zones actually worked, we’d never have to deal with mass shootings. Has there ever been a mass shooting that didn’t occur in a gun-free zone?

And, yes, there’s something about this story that brings to mind the phrase “fighting fire with fire,” but let’s try to remember that guns are tools: neither intrinsically good nor evil. They’re implements that you hope you never need, but you’ll be glad to have if the worst should happen.

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Image Credit: Flickr (via Creative Commons)



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Gender Politics in New Jersey: The Shape of Things to Come?

A story out of New Jersey likely has many in America wishing for a time machine – for an escape into a (hopefully) near future where we can put race, gender, and sexual politics behind us once and for all.

Rachel Pepe, a 13-year-old student at Thorne Middle School in Middletown, New Jersey, has been told by school officials that she will not be allowed to return to school if she continues to dress, and identify as, a girl. Born Brian Pepe, Rachel struggled for years with her gender identity. She reportedly suffered from stress-induced seizures, panic attacks, and severe depression before finally coming out publicly as transgender. The relief, her family says, was obvious not only in her disposition but in her physical health.

Gender PoliticsDespite the relief that came from embracing this deeply personal truth, Rachel’s school has said in no uncertain terms that she will be required to use the name that appears on her birth certificate, as well as “dress and behave” like a boy. Despite attempts to find a middle ground, no compromise has, as yet, been reached. Rachel’s mother, Angela Peters, has suggested to school leadership that Rachel be allowed to use the nurse’s office bathroom, so as not to make her fellow students uncomfortable, but that solution was apparently dismissed out of hand.

Another solution, and the one that, at this point, Peters seems to consider the best fix for Rachel’s predicament, would be to enroll her in a private school that would have a more enlightened stance on gender politics. The family’s barrier, of course, are the tuition costs, for which Middletown School District is unwilling to provide assistance. What’s certain is that Rachel will not be returning as Brian, her mother says, because “the depression will start again.”

Legal recourse

New Jersey has laws on the books that protect individuals from gender-related discrimination, but applying those laws to a public school setting seems to be uncharted territory for the state. However, Michael Silverman, of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, has suggested that “the family would have a strong case against discrimination.”

Rachel’s situation, while uncommon, is not unprecedented. Other states, including New York, have made accommodations for students who identify as transgender. As recently as February, the Maine Supreme Court made a ruling in favor of transgender students, indicating that they were entitled to appropriate accommodations in public schools. Similar rulings took place in Colorado and California as well.

Where do we go from here?

Rachel’s situation is almost certain to become a lightning rod for questions of gender and sexual politics in the US. Whatever resolution the involved parties arrive at, it’s all but certain that this will shed new light on the state of transgender acceptance. “If this helps one person,” says Angela Peters, “I can be happy about that.”

That a public institution – one that ostensibly exists to prepare children for a happy and productive life in the outside world – would seek to dictate the gender with which one of their students most closely identifies – is a curious thing. Transgender individuals are already subjected to enough inner turbulence, not to mention ridicule from their peers, that receiving it also from school officials should be a wake up call for us all. Nobody is asking the Middletown School District to personally identify with, or even to understand, Rachel Pepe’s very personal journey. But allowing students to discover their true selves – including, and perhaps especially, their gender identity  - should be one of the very purposes of our primary education system.

While rather few of us can identify with Rachel on a personal level, it’s clear that the psychological implications of her shifting gender identity is both complicated and mysterious. While it may seem a strange thing for society to applaud one’s discovery that they were born into the wrong body, informing them that their hard-won revelation is invalid is nothing short of inhuman.

Most of us were taught in school that we could be anything we wanted to be when we grew up. If you attend Middletown School District, however, you may just learn that there are certain strings attached.

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On the Horizon: The United States is Facing Political Dynasties

There’s a crisis at our nation’s borders. The official unemployment rate might seem manageable, but a deeper analysis of those numbers reveals that more people are leaving the workforce, causing some to peg the “real” rate at 18 percent. There is social unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Sure, America has a lot on her plate in terms of problems and crises.

But as we look toward November 2016 – the month when we will choose the 45th person to promise us hope and change – America is fronted with its scariest reality: Voters may very well be choosing between two familiar names come Election Day.

Though she has yet to make a formal announcement that she will seek to become the leader of the free world, there’s been no shortage of rumors that Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, Secretary of State and Senator from New York, will indeed throw her hat into the ring. And who better to challenge Hillary than good old Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who has the distinction of being George W. Bush’s younger brother?

That’s right: We’re not that far away from a race between America’s two favorite families, the Bushes and the Clintons. And we just can’t wait to see which one of them we’ll be lucky enough to be able to call our next president… said no one, ever.

What is Going On?

“There are a lot of great families. It’s not just four families, or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified. We’ve had enough Bushes. I think this is a great American country, and if we can’t find more than two or three families to run for high office – that’s silly.”

So says Barbara Bush, former first lady, who I don’t think most people have an opinion of except for saying she seemed like your nice friendly grandma 25-odd years ago and she looks exactly the same today as she did back then.

But now we may begin to form an opinion: Barbara Bush, the shrewd prognosticator.

How is it that we seem to be obsessed with these two political dynasties? Let’s dive a little further into the details:

  • Jan. 20, 1981-Jan. 20, 1989: George H.W. Bush was the nation’s vice president, serving under Ronald Reagan.
  • Jan. 20, 1989-Jan. 20, 1993: Bush the Elder became president.
  • Jan. 20, 1993-Jan. 20, 2001: Bill Clinton served as president after he defeated Bush I in 1992.
  • Jan. 20, 2001-Jan. 20, 2009: George W. Bush, or Bush II, was president after defeating Al Gore in 2000. In fact, some might argue that George’s brother Jeb, then the governor of Florida, had something to do with his first election.
  • Jan. 21, 2009-Feb. 1, 2013: Hilary Clinton served as secretary of state – arguably the country’s third-highest office.

In other words, from Jan. 20, 1981 through Feb. 1, 2013 – that’s more than 32 years if you’re counting – there was only one day where someone from the Bush or Clinton families did not hold one of the nation’s three most powerful jobs. Just one day: Jan. 20, 2009, the one day when William Joseph Burns served as acting Secretary of State before Hillary’s swearing in.

We Must Remember Why We Exist

GovernmentFor lack of a better word, wouldn’t it be funny if we’re presented with a Bush v. Clinton showdown in 2016? Perhaps we could pitch a reality television show and call it “Keeping up with the American Political Dynasties.”

In all seriousness, the whole reason our country came into being was to prevent these kinds of situations from developing. Our ancestors turned their backs on a monarch that had deserted them long ago. As such, George Washington refused a guaranteed third term just because he didn’t want to risk America developing a monarchy of its own.

Back to Barbara Bush: She’s right. In this great country of ours, can’t we find strong candidates who don’t happen to be members of either one of these families to lead us? If history’s shown us anything, it seems like we won’t:

  • John Adams was our country’s second president, serving from 1797 to 1801. His son, John Quincy Adams, was our country’s sixth president, serving from 1825 to 1829.
  • Williams Henry Harrison was our country’s ninth president, serving for one month in 1841 before dying of pneumonia. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was our country’s 23rd president, serving from 1889 to 1893.
  • Theodore Roosevelt was our country’s 26th president, serving from 1901 to 1909. His fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, became our country’s 32nd president, serving from 1933 to 1945.

And to think, we’ve not even discussed the Kennedys!

There’s no way around admitting that, collectively, America certainly has her work cut out for her as we move into the future. There are a lot of problems we must confront in the coming years. As such, should we really be sending the same people back to attempt to fix the problems they and their kin are responsible for creating?

It’s time that we take a real hard look in the mirror to determine whether we owe it to ourselves to find somebody – anybody – who is not a Bush or a Clinton to win office in 2016.



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