fixing the main line

Mark and I bought our house about seven years ago.  It's a very old house, and not many repairs had been made since it was built, so we've had a fair share of problems.  One of those issues was the main sewage line in our front yard.  Tree roots had intertwined around the pipe, and were growing and blocking the passage of water.  Every couple of months, this sewer line would get so backed up that our toilets and showers would start draining slowly.  Eventually, they would start backing up.  The whole house would stink.  We had a plumber come out and diagnose the problem the first time it happened.  He could snake the drain out to the main line for about $250.  Or we could repair the main line completely and permanently, for $5000.

Repairing the main line seemed like an impossible expense.  So for several years, instead of dealing with the issue, we lived in crisis management mode.  We ignored the problem until things got really bad, and then every 3-6 months we would get desperate enough to call a plumber to snake the drain again.

After about three years of this, we realized that paying to fix the problem was the right thing to do.   It seemed like an insane amount of money at the time.  We didn't have the money.  We didn't want to spend the money.  But we knew we needed to fix the root of the problem, because not fixing it would be more expensive in the long run.

Because sometimes, you have to spend money in the short-term to save money in the long-term.   Especially  when there are problems that are making you sick.

Today the healthcare reform bill passed, and there is legitimate concern over how much money it will cost.  However, I believe that despite it's initial cost, is still the right thing to do.  According to predictions, my tax bracket won't actually be affected.  But I say this with all sincerity: if I did have to pay a couple percentage points to assure that all Americans have access to adequate healthcare?  That would be just fine with  me.  Living in a wealthy country where a person can be dropped from their insurance for being sick - this is inhumane. 

(The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that healthcare reform will cut the nation's deficit by more than a trillion dollars over 20 years .  A great article explaining how it can achieve that reduction of national debt is here.)


  1. I definitely agree with you...after living in Brazil for almost a year where they do have healthcare available to everyone, my ideas on it have completely changed. Here they have private insurances that allow you to go to different doctors/hospitals of choice, or you can go for free to the hospital/doctor for whatever ails you. Does it have it's problems? Of course it does. There is no flawless system, because humans invented it and humans are using it. But I do know, as someone who's insurance got dropped (when I was living and working in the states last year) because her company could no longer afford that AND employees after the US financial crisis, that worrying about having an accident and not being able to pay, waiting out a sickness to see if you can avoid paying close to $100 to see the doctor and who knows just how much in medication, and not being able to afford private medical insurance because it was just so expensive, that I am relieved to be in a place where if something is wrong, if something happens, I'm not worried about receiving medical attention.

  2. i agree that reform was needed. however, i worry about the cost. my parents are small business owners and things are so hard on them because of their tax bracket. we have many friends that are in the same boat. honestly, the amount they pay for health care is crazy. crazy. the amount they pay will not change. they will only pay more taxes. with 34 democrats not voting for the bill, i worry that this is not the bill we needed.

  3. Anonymous5:15 AM

    Great analogy, Kristen.


  4. I'm going to preface this by saying I rarely discuss politics with ANYONE, not even my husband. I'm just say'in....

    I don't have any problem with paying so all of us can have health care (so long as "all of us" are legal residents, or here legally.) BUT...(there's that word that negates everything I just said.) I have spent the past week digging through the ENTIRE document. Do you know how many legislators have actually DONE that? Very few! Have YOU done that? There are things in there that are really scary! Such as the federal government having immediate and full-time access to your accounts and the ability to transfer funds out of them.'s in there. (page 58-59) Why is it there? Lets say I go to the doctor and say I can't afford to pay. They can, right there on the spot, go into my account and SEE if I have money in there, and TAKE IT OUT!'s in there! Buried among nearly 2000 pages of junk! And what about the FORCED "end of life" planning? What about the "Youth Groups"? Read their description, they sound very much like the Hitler Youth of the 30's. Yes, it's in there. Read it with my own eyes. ( )

    Are you familiar with Dr. Peter Singer? Director of Bio-Ethics at Princeton, elected into his position a few years ago or. It was HUGE news in my (the Down syndrome) community at the time. Why? Because Dr. Singer is a HUGE supporter of Eugenics. He has come right out and said in many articles that in his opinion babies with Down syndrome and other disabilities are no different than puppies. When a sick puppy is born, you let it die! You don't keep pumping life into it. He is very open in his believe that a baby should not be considered human until 30 days after birth. If you let these babies die, they will stop sucking the financial life out the country. This man is one of the top medical advisors to Pres. Obama.

    While there are some segments of the healthcare bill that are clearly needed, the administration has very skillfully buried a lot of garbage in the HUGE document that the vast majority of American's haven't bothered to read.

  5. Ooooh, the health care debate!! I totally agree with you Kristen. I am uninsured and have been for almost 2 years, and it sucks I am tired of constantly worrying what would happen if I got sick or broke a bone or whatever. My husband has insurance through his work, just medical, his dental and eye were dropped along with all of his other benefits a little more than a year ago when the business he works for went from 27 employees to 7! There is no way we can afford to add me to his plan, or pay for a plan through another company.
    when we were looking into getting insurance I was told that since I have had kidney stones that was considered a pre-existing condition so what does that mean higher premiums or either I get denied altogether! I can't get Medicaid because my husband makes $100 to much a month for me to qualify.
    No, I dont think that the bill is perfect, but you know what it is a start!

  6. Ditto above! Great analogy. While definitely not perfect, it's a step in the right direction.

  7. Anonymous8:14 AM

    Amen! I think so many people are getting bogged down by the "details" of it all. Yeah, there are things in there...but why are people freaking out? People freaking out over the whole, "big brother" thing...people freaking out over "socialism". Since when did socialism become a bad word? I guess these people against socialism do not use public roads, or schools or parks...because where do they think all of those came from? I am sure when those programs were started there were nay sayers who said, "Ugh, I do not want to pay for roads, I don't even have a car...etc."
    We all really need to stop thinking with our pocketbooks and think with our hearts. If we stopped running on such capitalism and took care of one another we would be so much better off.

  8. Anonymous8:18 AM

    I agree with you Kristen. I can afford to pay more in taxes (even if I don't want to) BUT I do WANT to pay more if it means everybody will have health care. For me it's moral, we take care of the weakest and the sickest amongst us. We have great health insurance, our premiums may rise, but you know what? They WOULD HAVE ANYWAY, now people just have something else to blame it on.

    I was big on the dropping of coverage and the things considered pre-existing conditions. These are covered now and that's good news.

    It's a step in the right direction. Now I just have to agree to disagree with many of my family members and acquaintances that are "Christian" or "Catholic" and try not to judge others. We are all allowed our own opinion. Breathe. Repeat.

    Thanks for your insight.


  9. We live in Canada and are moving back to the US this summer. When we investigated health care for our kids (both adopted), we were basically told that having been born in Ethiopia is a pre-existing condition. Blue Cross wouldn't cover them because they didn't meet US growth standards. We eventually found some coverage, but it's more expensive and much crappier than what we wanted to buy initially. (The sticker shock almost convinced us to stay in Canada, actually, because even if you include taxes it is much, much cheaper here.) I'm not thrilled with the current bill--I actually love my Canadian health care and wish I could take it with me--but it's a start.

  10. I should add that here (Quebec) the kids would be covered, no questions asked. All we have to do is add them to my husband's work permit. But even if we didn't, we could still take them to the doctor. Kids are taken care of here, period.

  11. Anonymous8:46 AM

    Great, great analogy, I love it. Might steal and put on facebook. *cough*

    I agree with much of what was said. There is lots in this bill I don't like. There was lots taken out of the bill I did like. But you know what? I'd rather have the bill in place, and work on fixing from here, than be stuck where we were, being the only developed nation to not provide healthcare to (virtually) everyone.

    No more denial for pre-existing conditions.

    No more taking people's money until they get sick, and then kicking them off the plan.

    No more yearly or lifetime caps, so that if you have a long-term illness your lifespan is not dictated by how long your insurance lasts.

    Overall, this is good.

  12. I totally agree! It's time to stop being so selfish and greedy and start help those that cannot help themselves. I would gladly pay more if it meant that someone else could have insurance.

  13. Anonymous9:32 AM

    You know, I don't know all the details, but what I do know is this...I have health care because my husband has a good job. There are many folks in my family that do not have health care, but work their tails off just the same. My small circle is rather indicative of many in this country. It is time to take steps in a direction toward getting folks healthcare that do not have it. ESPECIALLY in a country that can, let's be honest, afford it. And, yes, I am willing to help out my "brother" as well.

    While I am certain it is imperfect, I am highly suspicious of some of the more hysterical rhetoric about the bill(s). Imperfection, however, does not preclude action, no?


  14. Health care in our country should be a right, not a privelege. Everyone should have the right to go to a doctor for treatment when sick and injured. I am tickled that our country finally, has taken a step forward to provide for its citizens like so many other countries have done for years. Now, my sister who had throat cancer, can once again have health coverage that will allow her to go to the doctor for follow up care.

    My husband works for the federal government and we have pretty decent albeit expensive health insurance thru BCBS. One of our sons we brought home from Haiti had tested positive for Hep. C while at the creche and we worried endlessly about being able to have him covered under our plan and give him his God given right to have health care. Fortunately he is free and clear of Hep. C AND our country passed the health care initiative so had he been positive, we would have been able to access medical treatment. This was long overdue in our country and I appreciate you raising this issue on your blog.

  15. Anonymous1:46 PM

    I totally agree with the whole Health care should be a right, not a privilege thing. And I also don't mind paying the extra taxes to help out. But socialism IS scary and this bill seems at least a step in that direction which is what makes me nervous. As long as it stops here I'm 100% happy but I just got back from the Olympics where people were protesting the Olympics (the OLYMPICS!) because they believed the money should have been spent on housing the homeless and not on hosting the Olympics. There were many "Housing is a right" protesters and I would hate to see our system forget all things capitalism and go the other route completely. There are definitely some things that a human being should just have ie healthcare, but there are somethings that people should be able to acheive for themselves... you can't help those who won't help themselves. The bill is great, I just hope we don't take it much further.

  16. Leah, you said:
    "And what about the FORCED "end of life" planning? What about the "Youth Groups"? Read their description, they sound very much like the Hitler Youth of the 30's. Yes, it's in there. And what about the FORCED "end of life" planning? What about the "Youth Groups"? Read their description, they sound very much like the Hitler Youth of the 30's. Yes, it's in there. Read it with my own eyes. ( )

    My eyes do not see anything of the sort in the bill. H.R. 3200, page 425 requires Medicare to pay if a senior chooses optional counseling for end-of-life care. Something that, as a counselor, I hope people will do, but that is not forced. I wish my grandfather had done that - it would have helped my family greatly when he died, if we had better know his wishes.

    Youth camps?

    This kind of truth-twisting is very concerning to me.

  17. Kristin4:35 PM

    With all due respect, I'm a little surprised at your views in this post. I know you mentioned in your UNICEF posts that you were upset at how a big organization was abusing it's political power and I've witnesses a similar abuse of power from our politicians over this healthcare matter. I too believe that it is inhumane to be dropped from health insurance for being sick and that there are some serious issues with private health insurance in our country that need to be addressed. But this is supposed to be a government "by the people" and that is not what has happened. Depending on which poll you look at, more than 70% of people are opposed to this bill and/or how it is being handled (including many Democrats) and yet the politicians continued to push forward with it using whatever means possible to make it happen even though the very people they are supposed to be serving don't want it. Even if they were voting on something I'm super passionate about like getting rid of abortion, I still would be upset at the way they are doing it.

    I don't mind paying more taxes either to provide insurance to those that don't have it but in my opinion this bill does not deal with the root of the problem.

  18. When people start whining about the $940 billion cost of the health care bill I'm a bit nonplussed. Why aren't these people screaming about the $900 billion we've already spent in Iraq (and growing at around $7 billion every month)? I'd much rather invest my tax dollars on the health of Americans than dump it into an ill conceived and poorly executed war.

  19. Kristin,
    I didn't see it as an abuse of power. I was very much for reform, as were many people I know, so I don't think it's fair to say that it passed despite the will of the people. There were certainly polls that showed a majority being in favor, too. I know many people were opposed, but reform passed by vote in the house, then the senate, and then in the house again. I don't see that as an abuse of power.

  20. this is a beautiful step in the right direction, and I'm proud to be an American again for the first time in a long while! we're living in New Zealand, currently, and lived in Vancouver, BC for 10 years prior to that, and I can't even express how much nicer people are when their basic needs are not only met, but it's just a given that EVERYONE's basic needs are met, no need to argue about it or make up crazy rhetoric about scary socialism.
    Vancouver is as wonderful as the rest of Canada, but has a terrible problem with homelessness and drug addiction, due in large part to being the city with the mildest climate in Canada. The people protesting the Olympics had a very, very good point, that the city was cutting funding to essential services to fund the olympics, when it really couldn't afford to do so. I don't actually think any city in the world could afford to host the Olympics, really (aside from maybe Saudi Arabia or some other oil-rich country with cash to burn) and I was proud that the protesters in Vancouver were not just shoved to the side, but were given a platform from which to speak their point of view. but that's not what we're talking about...
    Personally, I'm glad that America is on the road to becoming as civilized as the rest of the industrialized nations of the world... still a ways to go yet, but we/you're on the right track!

  21. Maybe you attract like-thinking readers but I'm kind of excited at all the comments from readers supportive of health care reform. It's refreshing! You can count me in on the relieved bandwagon. I'm sure my tax bracket will be affected and quite frankly I am thrilled to help where I can. Do I think the USG will fix it all? No. They don't tend to run things all that well, for the most part. But also? The insurance companies run things *really really badly* and it would be almost impossible not to run things *better* than that. Things can only get better from here. It feels like hope. I like the fixing the mainline analogy.

  22. Wonderful analogy! We live in too wealthy a country to not provide healthcare for all.

  23. I think Leah is talking about HR 3590, which was the bill that was passed on Sunday.

    CBO is technically NON-partisan, not bipartisan and their estimates are $143B savings for the first ten years (5 years of services for 10 years of taxes)and the trillion for the next ten years.

    I won't get all crazy with the boring economic stuff, but the assumptions made by CBO regarding the tax revenues to be collected in the next 20 years are estimated at 7% when right now we are hovering between 1 and 2%, thanks to the floundering economy. Then there are cost savings by HHS that are extremely optimistic since HHS only recovered $21B last year.

    All that is to just say that the safer bet is staying away from saying this will save us money and sticking with the moral argument that it is the right thing to do, regardless of how or if we can pay for it. Bush used it for the war and it worked.

  24. Kristin7:46 PM

    The house reps and senate are elected to represent us and by them voting to pass it despite the fact that 60-80% (again depending on which polls you read) were against the bill and/or process they were going about it, shows that they were voting against the will of the people. They voted for what a majority of them wanted not what a majority of Americans wanted. I would guess that if they put that bill on the ballot it hands down wouldn't pass until a ton of changes were made. There are many in favor of healthcare reform but even many of those in favor of reform are not in favor of the bill and the way Congress has been discussing and voting on it. I've called the white house multiple times in the past few weeks and can't even get through the lines are so busy. I know plenty of democrats that are upset at the power their elected officials are exerting by pushing this through even though they agree with the bill. Just the fact that Congress was discussing a "deem and pass" (which has never been used in dealing with legislation this big before) shows they were going to whatever they could at all costs to make sure it went through. Look at Massachusetts, one of the strongest democratic states and yet they just elected a republican to fill Kennedy's seat. To me that was a message loud and clear that the people were upset. How else does such a liberal state like Massachusetts end up with a republican in that seat after 40-50+ years I think it is. There absolutely needs to be healthcare for everyone but not the way our government is going about it.

  25. Great analogy! Thanks for posting. I agree that this bill is not perfect but at least it's moving us in the right direction. Health care is something that everyone should have access to, regardless of the cost.

  26. I love your blog! I've never commented before. Here's another blog that I think explains the health care bill very well.

  27. It never could have been PERFECT but it could have been so much better. I am sad our government could not do a better job. The add ons to this bill are just sick. When the bill itself I...well honestly I still am not sure if I agree with yet...somedays I do somedays I don't!

    I don't know the boat I am in with both of us being small business owners...I really feel screwed either way.

    Hopefully this way screw us over...less??

    Hopefully it leads to a stronger & healthier nation.

    I hope, but I sure am not convinced yet...

  28. Don't get me wrong. I completely agree in all of us supporting our brother. I have a 21 year old with no health insurance who has paranoid schizophrenia and has not been on meds for 8 months because of that lack of insurance. Nor can he see any doctors. In January he fell and bruised a kidney and owes a $6,000 medical bill, yet he's been without a job for the past 3 months. (just got one this week! PRAISE GOD!) He can't be under my insurance, because I'm on MinnesotaCare, which is Minnesota's version of pre-paid health care, where the premium is on a sliding fee, because I can't work due to my daughter's care needs. My daughter, who is multiply disabled (with Down syndrome being her primary diagnosis, but she also has a TBI (traumatic brain injury, which causes her more problems than the DS) is on Waiver. This lets her get Medical Assistance, and also covers some other things that she NEEDS! These waivers were designed to roll over into adult services, but with the new healthcare bill, these funds will be gone. We've been duly warned by the county that if the bill passes, the waivers will be gone within 2 years. These services rolling over into adulthood were designed to provide the high level of care needed as adults. Under the bill, that care will not be available. Dr. Singer, who I mentioned above as being one of the medical advisors to the white house, is encouraging "group care" situations with as little spending as possible on care that "won't make a difference in the level of functioning for these people" (who he does not consider to be human in the first up on him.) This particular group of advisors are encouraging the government to go BACK IN TIME, back to warehousing people like my daughter. Yes, this bill scares me TO DEATH, particularly where my child is concerned.

  29. Kristin10:37 AM

    Leah, thanks for sharing your personal journey.

  30. My wife got me hooked on this blog because of its needed comical relief for parents and because we’re pursuing adoption. Great posts.

    I know the original post wasn’t about the abuse of power nor probably intended to create a long discussion, but, I wanted to share a few thoughts.

    First, let me say, I strongly agree and support reform of insurance and my heart breaks for those who have not been able to get the care they needed. I would like to see coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, increase competition to drive prices down, tort reform, prohibiting insurance companies from unjustly canceling policies, etc. However, I don’t agree with how Congress went about to get this bill done.

    Congress abused their powers by voting against the will of their constituents. As a few were caught on tape saying, [paraphrasing] "we will vote for the bill even if the people in my district are against it because I know what's best". Sorry, but the system was set up for them to represent us. Next, they abused the system by negotiating side deals to benefit the representative’s state (e.g. Louisiana, Nevada, Connecticut, Florida, Nebraska, Michigan, N. Dakota to name a few that already have been made public). Finally, it is abusive by adding other things into the bill that aren’t related to healthcare, such as mandating that student loans from now on can only be offered by the government and no longer by private companies…with the exception of companies in N. Dakota (side deal arranged to get the congressman’s vote)…they just nationalized student loans through a healthcare bill.

    My last point about abuse. That executive order that Bart Stupak negotiated to ensure that public funding for abortion wouldn’t be permitted…worthless since no executive order can override a law. The Senate bill which was signed into law allows public funding for abortion. Sorry Bart, the deal is meaningless and you got nothing that you were fighting for except the appearance that you did and those federal grants to fund new airports in your state that you’ve been wanting (which was agreed upon the Friday before Sunday’s vote).

    Regarding costs. True, not every decision should be based on the cost or profitability, but money is a useful resource to implement the solutions. Thus, the fiscal impact to the general economy should be considered and is important because the success of the economy and individuals is one aspect which creates the wealth and opportunities to help those in needs. Here is another view on the cost and long-term impact of the bill: Another factor that wasn't included into the CBO cost is that the bill doesn't cover coverage for illegal immigrants. However, with the administration now focusing on amnesty for the approximately 12 million illegal immigrants, the cost to cover them would be additional and change the CBO estimates. For this reason and others, the CBO cost estimates should be taken lightly. The CBO even said that there is a 50/50% chance that the actual cost will be much higher or lower. Let’s just flip a coin.

    My problem with the bill isn't about trying to help others. Instead, my problem is that there were other proposals, which were not allowed to be presented for discussion or were voted down by party lines, to address the same issues which would not have cost as much or added such long-term burdens on the economy and the taxpayers. It's a shame that Congress abused the power they had from a complete majority instead of working toward a compromise for the benefit of the people and instead of the goals of those in power.


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