That .3% Social Security COLA in 2017 Might be Zero for You

And it's not even the Republicans' fault.

This will be as short as I can make it today and still be clear because I can hardly speak, let alone type.

Social-security-card

If you are an American retiree, you know that sometime in December, you receive a mailing from the Social Security Administration (SSA) titled “Your Benefit Amount.”

This form shows your new full monthly SSA payment based on the cost-of-living (COLA) increase (when there is one) along with the new amount of the deduction for your Medicare Part B premium for next year.

(Some recipients may also have deductions for the Part D prescription drug premium and/or voluntary federal tax withholding.)

Because SSA does not date this annual mailing, I could not tell from previous years when it ought to arrive so on Monday, as I was working out a personal budget for 2017, I phoned Social Security to get my numbers for the new year.

Recall, please, that as announced a few weeks ago, Social Security recipients have been granted a miniscule .3 percent COLA for next year – the smallest in the history of Social Security.

It won't amount to much even for those who receive the maximum, full retirement SSA benefit: the increase on the average payment of $1360 per month will be about $5. Only twice that for the maximum payment of around $2,600.

While I was on hold waiting to speak to someone at the Social Security office in Washington, a recording announced that the Part B premium for most beneficiaries would increase by about $30. I nearly dropped the phone – for me that's close to a 28 percent increase. Huh?

(There are several different Part B premium amounts depending on a bunch variables.)

When I was connected to the SSA representative, I asked for an accounting of three items: my new full monthly payment, my Part B deduction and the amount of the check I will receive each month.

Perhaps you know that there is a “hold harmless” clause in the Social Security regulations. It means that whatever increases such as Part B premiums are imposed each new year, a monthly benefit payment cannot be less than it was in the previous year.

That is what has happened to me: I will not be charged the actual new Part B premium because that would reduce my 2017 payment to less than what I receive now and, in fact, even less than I received in 2009.

So in such circumstances, the Social Security Administration jiggers with the Part B premium so that I will receive the same amount as last year - and not a penny more - while, of course, all fixed expenses have increased.

Now for sure I am not going hungry, I will not do without – so I do not mean this to be a personal whine.

But one of the few things I have learned in life, on my own, with no help from anyone else – as I mention here now and then - is that if it is happening to me, it is happening to thousands, maybe millions of other people.

And a whole lot of them – I know some personally - have a lot less than I do and not having even a small SSA increase for next year while faced with the usual increases in utilities, food, insurance, prescription drugs and other expenses they watch closely will become a further hardship in 2017.

As I said at the top, this is even before the Congressional Republicans start taking a hatchet to Medicare and Social Security. More reason we must fight with all we've got against threatened repeal and privatization of those programs.


The Republican War on Obamacare and Medicare

It's getting complicated, my friends - and hard, too - to keep up with the fierce Republican war on healthcare.

In that regard on Sunday, New York Times cartoonist Brian McFadden pretty well captured all you need to know about what happened during the past week. (For easier reading, click here for full-size strip).

Safety Net Cuts Cartoon

The amount of posturing, threat and pushback between Republicans and Democrats in Congress make it difficult to know what's real and what is bluster. I'm going to try to simplify what we know.

One thing is certain: we've heard more about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – what most of Washington falsely calls “entitlements” - more in the past week or two than in the past four years.

Democrats and media pundits spent their time denying that it is possible to get rid of Obamacare and Medicare as we know them without dire consequences, and they are probably right. But the constant drumbeat of "they won't be able to repeal or privatize" sounds an awful lot to me like "* cannot win the election."

What bothers me most about all the leftie predictions that it can't be done is that it allows the people – you and me - to relax, to think that everything will be okay. Well, don't you believe it.

So while Congress and the presidential transition team continue to cross swords on these issues, we need to educate ourselves for the coming onslaught – probably soon after the 20 January inauguration. I'll do my best to keep you up to date.

NOMINEE FOR HHS
Last Tuesday, the president-elect nominated Representative Tom Price (R-Georgia) to head the Department of Health and Human Services, the cabinet-level agency that oversees Medicare and other services for elders such as home delivery of meals.

Medicare_card400

If approved by the Senate, he will also manage the effort to dismantle of Obamacare.

Here is what the Washington Post had to say about Price, who is a physician:

”The 62-year-old lawmaker, who represents a wealthy suburban Atlanta district, has played a leading role in Republican opposition to [Obamacare] and has helped draft several comprehensive bills to replace it...

“Under his vision, [Medicare and Medicaid] would cease to be entitlements that require them to provide coverage to every person who qualifies.

“Instead, like many House Republicans, he wants to convert Medicaid into block grants to states...

“For Medicare, Price favors another idea long pushed by conservatives, switching it from a 'defined benefit' to a 'defined contribution.' With that, the government would give older or disabled Americans financial help for them to buy private insurance policies.”

With only slight variations, the Republicans are all singing from this playbook.

THE DOG WHO CAUGHT THE CAR
However, what the Republican lawmakers have finally realized is that it could be political suicide to repeal Obamacare and privatize Medicare without having reasonable replacements ready to go.

By Thursday, the Republican dilemma was becoming almost funny. Josh Marshall reported at Talking Points Memo (TPM):

”Both on repealing Obamacare and phasing out Medicare, Republicans are now realizing they have to ask Democrats for help, despite the fact that they control every branch of the federal government...

“One key reason is that on both Obamacare and Medicare, the GOP - especially the House GOP - is the dog who caught the car. What do they do now...

“Republican Senators are now telling pretty much everyone who will listen that they don't want to get dragged into phasing out Medicare this year...You can only push through so much at a time. But don't believe the hype,” writes Marshall. “They know that killing Medicare is toxic politically...

“They're getting a similar message on Obamacare.”

REPEAL AND DELAY?
At the end of the week, the latest word is that the Republicans have renamed their kill-Obamacare initiative Replace and Delay. As this new story goes, they would quickly vote to repeal it early next year but delay implementation for up to several years while they figure out what to replace it with.

Meanwhile, Texas Republican Kevin Brady who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is telling people he wants to “overhaul” Medicare in 2017. Another TPM story:

” While House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has boldly doubled down on his own proposals to privatize Medicare or what he calls 'premium support,' Brady was less clear about what he wanted to do.”

DOES THIS ADD UP TO ANYTHING?
Well, it's obvious the Republicans haven't got their act together yet. Now that they own all the federal government, “repeal” is their mantra but I think Josh Marshall nailed it: they're the dog who caught the car.

As messy as this political tap dance is, do not get complacent. The GOP will not let their ownership of the entire federal government pass without doing everything possible to seal their ideological advantage for years to come.

Due to the Republican disarray, right now is not the time for action from us, not the time to be badgering our representatives because there is nothing yet to aim at. Instead, we need to keep our eye on what is developing and do our homework.

As I mentioned in last week's Medicare post, the single best source of information about the Repubican war on healthcare is Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo.

He covers it reliably, thoroughly and intelligently. So if you don't read anything else about this, TPM will keep you better informed than most people are.


ELDER MUSIC: Songs About Cities - Santa Fe

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

Santa Fe

Santa Fe is the oldest capital in the United States (founded in 1610), but you all knew that - I just threw it in for something to say.

After California and Massachusetts, I've spent more time in New Mexico than any other American state. Indeed, I've spent more time there than any Australian state except Victoria.

Naturally, having spent all that time there, I've visited Santa Fe a number of times. Santa Fe is known for its arts and crafts and it was in there I first discovered the art work of R.C. Gorman, Georgia O'Keeffe and John Axton. John was the only one of those whose work I could afford.

An interesting insight into the geography of the two countries is that Santa Fe is higher above sea level than the tip of the highest mountain in Australia (Mount Kosciuszko). So, let's go with songs about Santa Fe (or ones that mention the city).

I first discovered ELIZA GILKYSON when I was in New Mexico quite some time ago. Eliza was living there at the time.

Eliza Gilkyson

That was through a very early album of hers called "Love From the Heart" (and she was calling herself Lisa Gilkyson back then). I still have that one (on vinyl); I'm not getting rid of if it as I've never seen it on CD (or any other format).

From later in her career she sings Lights of Santa Fe.

♫ Eliza Gilkyson - Lights of Santa Fe


THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS had several songs that were contenders. I guess they like Santa Fe.

Sons Of The Pioneers

The two most famous members of the group were Roy Rogers (who doesn't appear in the song today) and Bob Nolan. Bob wrote many of their songs, but not this one.

After playing them, including two different versions of the one I chose, I decided on Along the Santa Fe Trail. This one they recorded in 1947.

♫ Sons Of The Pioneers - Along The Santa Fe Trail (1947)


ARTHUR CRUDUP is probably best known these days for writing That's All Right Mama, the first song with which Elvis made the charts. He recorded several others of Arthur's as well.

Arthur Crudup

Arthur is one of the most important links between rhythm and blues (and straight blues) and rock & roll. Many early (and not so early) rockers have covered his songs. The one we're interested in today is Mean Old Santa Fe.

♫ Arthur Crudup - Mean Old Santa Fe


I find it amusing that probably the most famous railway in America, the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe doesn't get to Santa Fe (and never has). I guess, because of that, technically, the song On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe isn't about our city.

That doesn't stop me though. There are a bunch of versions of this song and I'm going for the one I like best by BING CROSBY.

Bing Crosby

You don't need me to tell you about Bing, I'll just play the song. That's Six Hits and a Miss supplying backing vocals.

♫ Bing Crosby - On The Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe


After his motor cycle accident in 1966, BOB DYLAN went to Woodstock (in New York state) to rest and recuperate.

Bob Dylan

Coincidently (or perhaps not), the members of the band who backed him on that famous first electric tour were living just down the road. They were The Hawks but later became better known as The Band.

Naturally they couldn't help themselves and they started playing music together (in the big pink house a couple of The Band were renting).

They recorded a lot of these sessions as demos of new songs for other artists. This music made its way out to the general public and was later officially released as "The Basement Tapes". From that album Bob and The Band perform Santa-Fe.

♫ Bob Dylan - Santa-Fe


JIMMIE DALE GILMORE has two musical careers: as a solo artist and as a member of The Flatlanders with Joe Ely and Butch Hancock.

Jimmie Dale Gilmore

He's also a bit of an actor and has appeared in a number of films. However, we're interested in his music, and in particular, the song Santa Fe Thief.

♫ Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Santa Fe Thief


PAUL SIMON doesn't actually mention Santa Fe in his song.

Paul Simon

However, he does reference the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that are a backdrop to the city and that's good enough for me. The song is Hearts and Bones for the album of the same name.

That one is rather neglected in Paul's canon but I think it's a really fine and worth being in your collection if you like Paul's music.

♫ Paul Simon - Hearts and Bones


Although not a tribute band, THE SONS OF THE SAN JOAQUIN somewhat channel The Sons of the Pioneers.

Sons of the San Joaquin

Like their predecessors, they sing of life as cowboys (although they certainly didn't earn a living doing that).

These Sons are brothers Joe and Jack Hannah and Joe's son Lon. They have that sibling, or perhaps familial more to the point, harmony down pat, they make beautiful music together. Here they are with Santa Fe Lights.

♫ Sons of the San Joaquin - Santa Fe Lights


The Sons, just above, first came to notice singing backing on one of MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY's "Cowboy Songs" albums. He was so impressed he got them a recording contract.

Michael Martin Murphey

Michael has a few songs that could be considered today. I originally had him inked in performing Santa Fe Trail. However, going back over the others, I decided that I preferred Sante Fe Cantina, so that's the one you have today.

♫ Michael Martin Murphey - Sante Fe Cantina


VAN MORRISON is an unlikely contender today, but I'll use any excuse to include him.

Van Morrison

Van's song is really two for the price of one. They are Santa Fé and Beautiful Obsession.

♫ Van Morrison - Santa Fé ~ Beautiful Obsession


INTERESTING STUFF – 3 December 2016

* HAT TREE ORNAMENT

Maybe it's not enough, all those red Make America Great Again hats. Now you can have a miniature one as a Christmas ornament at a whole lot more than a miniature price:

If you need to know more about it, you can read it at The Hill. Merry * Christmas.

WORLD'S OLDEST PERSON TURNS 117

The standard reporter question when old, old people are interviewed is always about what they attribute their longevity to. A whole lot of men mention whisky and cigarettes and there are often other funny answers – I always think they're pulling our collective leg.

The current oldest person in the world is Emma Morano of Rome, Italy, who turned 117 last Tuesday and is, according to the story, the last person alive in the world born in the 19th century. She lives at home helped by a niece and two other caregivers.

Marano at Home

Ms. Morano attributes her longevity to eating three raw eggs a day since her teen years (she recently cut back to two a day) and also to the fact that she has been single for most of her life.

”On Tuesday, Ms. Morano took it all in good stride. She blew out the candles, posed graciously for countless photographs and accepted cheek kisses galore.

“Then at one point she said, ‘Hey, isn’t there anything to eat here?’ and she ate,” said [her physician] Dr. Bava, who honored her Tuesday morning.

“Then she took a nap.”

Sounds like a smart idea to me after a big birthday party. You can read more about Emma Morano at The New York Times.

THE 2016 SONG FROM FLO AND JOAN

My friend Jim Stone sent this video song which is a raucous recap of the events of 2016. It's wildly funny and all too true so I sent it to a couple of other friends wondering if I should post it today (it is a whole, hell of a lot more crude that other stuff I post).

The friends said yes so here it is. You've been warned. Also, this is a disclaimer from Flo and Joan on their YouTube page: “We got our facts wrong and it wasn't a bombing in Nice. We're sorry for any offence this may have caused.” Enjoy.

FANTASTIC 3D STREET ART ILLUSIONS

I really like 3D street art and usually Darlene Costner sends them to me. I found this one all my own and the entire first half of the video is new to me.

I've seen the second half - “the making of” - before but it was just as interesting to see again. I hope it delights you as much as it delights me.

There are more “best of 3D street art” videos at YouTube.

A GOOD READ: THE ELECTION OF *

Utne or Utne Reader has been around in one form or another since the 1980s when it was founded by Eric Utne to reprint the best of the alternative presses on politics, culture, and the environment along with some original stories.

Although Eric sold the magazine 10 or so years ago, he still writes for it now and then and a few years ago I was privileged to have lunch with him and his wife when they visited Oregon.

It's one of the magazines I check in with regularly online and last week I was surprised to find this at the top of the third paragraph of one story:

”Let’s start with Ronnie Bennett...who puts out a must-read blog on aging called Time Goes By. She writes...”

I'm abashed to be included with the likes of Rebecca Solnit, Naomi Klein and Bill McKibbon among others that Eric quotes in his essay of a sampling of post-election ruminations.

Utne's essay is this week's “Good Read” (which it would be even without me in it) and you will find it here.

STEPHEN HAWKING DECLARES NEW THREATS TO HUMAN RACE

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, age 74, has had a couple of busy weeks predicting disaster for humanity – first in November, as reported by Raw Story, during a speech at Oxford:

“'We must also continue to go into space for the future of humanity,' he said. 'I don’t think we will survive another 1000 without escaping beyond our fragile planet.'”

And then this:

More about the second prediction at Esquire.

NYC SUBWAY ELECTION CATHARSIS

The shock of the election result was still new and raw when, on November 9, Matthew “Levee” Chavez came up with Subway Therapy in Manhattan's Union Square subway station to help people cope:

The idea quickly spread to other subway stations in New York and to other cities. See more about it and more photos at Chavez's website.

COCKATOOS MAKE TOOLS

I've read a lot of stories about how certain kinds of apes make tools to get to otherwise unreachable food. But birds? YouTube explains:

”Researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna and the University of Oxford report that Goffin cockatoos can make and use elongated- tools of appropriate shape and length out of amorphous materials, suggesting that the birds can anticipate how the tools will be used.”

LANAI CAT SANCTUARY

Why not two animal stories in week. There are never enough animals, right?

More than 500 cats(!) live together at the Lanai Cat Sanctuary in Hawaii. This video is three years old but the sanctuary is going strong and if you happen to live in Hawaii, you might want to adopt one of their cats.

Find out more at the sanctuary website.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Making New Friends in Old Age – Meditation No. 2

Friendship

Before I go any further with this post, let me say this:

I am pretty sure that if the TGB readers who comment here regularly enough so that we come to know one another as much as is possible through our words and phrases and opinions and jokes and ideas – and if we all lived in the same town, each of us could find at least one good friend among our number.

Alas. We are spread around the world.

Back in July, I posted a story - a meditation I called it - on making new friends in old age; you can read it here. Since then, several readers have emailed asking me to follow up.

The biggest takeaway from the comments in July was that with only a couple of exceptions, everyone who had something to say could use a friend.

Most of us had tried the list of suggestions that is repeated on thousands of advice websites. They appear to be fairly successful – if you are looking for an acquaintance. But not so much for a deeper friendship.

Several readers made an important point: that the kinds of experiences that help forge closer relationships don't show up with as much frequency in old age – things like college, first jobs, promotions, marriages, kid and yes, divorce, starting over, etc.

Navigating life events – the good and the bad – with another binds us together and strengthens connections that endure. They give us those "remember when..." moments we enjoy for years to come.

But there are fewer such opportunities when the children are gone, we are no longer in the workforce and we don't get out and about as much as when we were younger.

As to that list of suggestions for making new friends, one reader, Melanie Jongsma, offered this insight:

”I am [only] 49, and I recently lost my best friend. I'm not limited by mobility or health problems, and I've been intentional about working hard to make new friends.

“I do manage to keep myself busy, but activity is not the same as friendship. At some point I may have to simply concede that I will probably never have a 'best friend' again. Maybe that's ok.”

There are two takeaways for me from Melanie's note. First:

“Activity is not the same as friendship” is true. But re-reading everything from July – my post and all your comments – it struck me that it is useful, in making the effort to find a friend, to do it through a shared activity that keeps you engaged together but leaves a lot of room for conversation.

As reader Rosemary Woodel wrote:

”I go hiking with people I am just beginning to know so we have deeper conversations on the trail.”

Smart choice. It is important, I think, to find interests that create the space to talk one-on-one. Less physically ambitious events would work too. A movie, for example, if you are sure to include a meal or tea afterwards to talk over what you've watched together and let the conversation wander where it will from there.

The second point for me in Melanie's comment is this:

”I may have to simply concede that I will probably never have a 'best friend' again. Maybe that's ok.”

As much as I find old age to be the most interesting time of life, even I must admit that among all the gratifications and pleasures, there is loss, and the death of relatives and friends is among the hardest.

But those tragedies come with the gift of life and there is nothing to do but grieve, each in our way, and then to keep moving forward. Lots of things change in old age and it is possible that for some of us the idea of a “best friend” is better suited to youth.

Perhaps old age, commonly a period of personal reflection which requires some amount of time alone, doesn't have as much room for the continuous sharing of best friends. Maybe we are asking too much of ourselves and of a potential friend – and courting disappointment - if we believe it must be the kind of impassioned attachment that happened years ago.

If looked at that way, couldn't it mean that “lighter” friendships can be as satisfying in their way? A friend for movies? Another for hiking? One for sushi? Combine and mix them up now and then? Or not?

I have one friend I've been meeting for lunch once every week or two for more than a year. We never spend longer than an hour at it, sometimes others are included, mostly not and we have never done anything else together. It seems to be comfortable for each of us the way it is and I would miss her if those lunches stopped.

Our lives are different in many ways in old age. I wonder, then, if it is as much a mistake to expect new friendships to be as intense now as in our younger years as it is to expect to jump as high or run as fast we once could.

But then, what do I know? Not much about this except one thing for sure: a friendship of any degree must be nurtured. Frequently. And that is best done in person. But if it can't be, other kinds of being together help a whole lot.

What do you think? Other thoughts?


Dilemma: Finding a Primary Care Physician

THE PROBLEM
About a month ago, I woke one morning with a mystery malady: randomly placed aches on the front, sides and back of my torso in about half a dozen specific locations which change from day to day.

These are entirely different from muscle pains I get when I occasionally overdo my fitness workout.

Because I hardly ever get sick and when I do, it is easily identifiable and not terribly important; and because I spend as little time with doctors as I can get away with, I followed my usual procedure when something goes wrong: wait and see.

By mid-afternoon that first day, I still hurt. I tried a pain pill, went bed and waited an endless 90 minutes for the medication to kick in.

This routine continued for next couple of weeks. The aches would be there for a day or two and then I would wake the next day feeling, unless you count general lethargy, almost my normal self again and got on with life believing that whatever had caused the aches was resolving itself.

THE PHYSICIAN
But nooo. After one pain-free day – or two sometimes – the aches returned. Finally I broke down and went to the doctor. And this is where the story I came to tell you today begins.

Over a period of 15 or 20 minutes, the pleasant and clearly competent physician's assistant took my vital signs that, she said, were all within normal range and asked about any changes from what she read out on my chart. The doctor then arrived, sat down at the computer and started typing.

I had a written list of my mystery malady symptoms so I could be concise, along with a couple of unrelated, minor symptoms I wanted to check on while I was there.

Reading off my list, I explained my mystery symptoms and noted that for the previous day and that day, I was pain free but I'd been there before and didn't think the malady had corrected itself.

The only time the doctor looked at me directly and touched me was when he felt the glands under my chin pronouncing them, after a few seconds, to be normal. He returned to the computer and, I assume, entered that information.

The following conversation ensued (paraphrased):

DOCTOR: I can't see that there is anything going on we need to be concerned about and you said that the pain has subsided so you're apparently getting better. Give the MT a urine sample so we can check for a virus.

The doctor then walked toward the door.

RONNI: Wait. I have two other small things I want to ask about.

DOCTOR: Sorry. We're out of time.

And he left after being with me for 10 minutes - probably more like seven or eight minutes.

I peed in the cup and drove home in growing fury – and a little bit of fear. (Two days later, I was informed that the urine test indicated no infection or virus.)

FINDING A NEW PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN
For a couple of days I thought the pains had finally gone away but they returned and have continued that haphazard schedule of a day or two on, a day or two off.

Clearly it was time to find a new primary care physician. I'm 75. There is an old folk tale I'm unwilling to dismiss entirely that no matter how healthy you are, after 75 it's one damned thing after another.

A year or so after moving here, I used online listings of both primary care physicians and geriatricians to find a new doctor. My preference was for the latter but there are fewer of them every year so there's not much chance of finding one with room in his or her schedule.

These days, the web pages of most physicians list what kinds of insurance coverage they accept and I quickly learned that if Medicare is not listed, it is not a oversight. It means they won't consider you.

It took me several days to call all the physicians who listed Medicare and in every case the phone conversation went like this:

RONNI: I'm looking for a primary care physician and would like to make an appointment.

PHONE PERSON: What kind of insurance do you have?

RONNI: Medicare.

PHONE PERSON: I'm sorry, we are not accepting new patients at this time.

I kid you not. Every single one said this.

(I did not find a doctor until I needed cataract surgery a couple of years ago that could not be performed without a full physical exam first. When I explained I did not have a primary care physician, the eye doctor made an appointment with the one I now see.)

A week or ten days ago, I asked a friend who has lived here for decades about finding a physician and she said, “Good luck with that. In this town, they all have waiting lists.” A neighbor I spoke with agreed.

Before long, I will need to repeat the exercise – it's been several years since last time – of calling the list of primary care physicians (and maybe take a stab again at the geriatricians) within a somewhat reasonable distance from my home to see if any will accept Medicare AND a new patient.

(One list is the Physician Compare Directory at the Medicare website where all the doctors do take Medicare. There are other online lists from various sources, often local, usually searchable by Zip Code in addition to specialty.)

Before that, however, another friend has offered to make an inquiry for me and we'll see how that goes.

But the point remains that if Medicare is your health coverage and you need a new physician for whatever reason, you may be out of luck. Of course, when/if I find one, there is no reason to believe he/she will spend any more time with me than my most recent encounter and we don't get to do job interviews before choosing a doctor. It's more like, if one will take you and he or she is still breathing, don't say no.

A fairly short trip around the web turned up multiple stories of elders with Medicare unable to find a physician willing to accept them.

A 2013 NPR story about this dilemma noted that between the year 2000 and 2012, the number of Texas doctors accepting Medicare dropped from 78 percent to 58 percent. There is no reason to believe it is any different in the other 49 states and god knows how low the percentage is now, four years later. Further:

”Seventy-eight-year-old Nancy Martin is one of the seniors who had a tough time finding a physician.

“'I felt frustration, disappointment and I would say, despair. A lot of days I would get to the point where I would think, I'm never going to find a doctor in Austin,' she told the NewsHour. It took a full two years for Martin to find one.

Ten thousand people a day turn age 65 so this problem isn't going away any time soon.

PRE-EMPTIVE NOTE: We are not here for any long-distance diagnoses of my mystery malady so please don't. The issue at hand is important – our experience, discussion and advice (if any) on finding a physician.


Saving Medicare and Contacting Congress

Capitol-diagram

EDITORIAL NOTE: This is a nuts-and-bolts post pulling together some information we are going to need before long. I know some readers don't want any more politics, but emboldened Republicans are hard bent on killing Medicare and they want to do it right after the New Year.

Discussion of Medicare privatization may come up sooner than we expect; Congress reconvenes today, none of the Republicans are shy about pressing their political advantage.

I spent some time over the long weekend, locking down details of one way we can make our voices heard. There will be others, but contacting your representatives is basic to the effort, and there is a right way to do it. Maybe you will want to bookmark some of these links for future use.

* * *

REFRESHER
As I wrote here last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has been pushing a plan to privatize Medicare for at least half a dozen years and is willing to lie to the American public to accomplish it:

”What people don't realize,” Ryan told [Fox News host Brent] Baier, “is because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke, medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, Medicaid is in fiscal straits.

“You have to deal with those issues if you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare. Medicare has serious problems [because of] Obamacare.”

This is exactly opposite of what is true which you can read about on my most recent Medicare post here.

As it looks now, Ryan's new, private Medicare coverage would compete against traditional Medicare. New York Times reporter, Robert Pear, who has closely followed Medicare and Social Security for many years, wrote about Ryan's plan last week and noted this about how it would work:

“'Beneficiaries would have to pay much more to stay in traditional fee-for-service Medicare,' said John K. Gorman, a former Medicare official who is now a consultant to many insurers. 'Regular Medicare would become the province of affluent beneficiaries who can buy their way out of' private plans.”

According to many reports (but who knows what applies in a * administration), Ryan intends to push Medicare privatization (also called voucher plan) legislation as soon as the 115th Congress convenes in January.

Last Friday, in response to the Republican Medicare threat, Senate Minority Leader-elect, Chuck Schumer (D-New York) issued a defiant statement reminiscent of actor Clint Eastwood in a certain movie [emphasis is mine]:

“Medicare is one of the most successful government programs ever created – it’s been a success story for decades. The Republicans’ ideological and visceral hatred of government could deny millions of senior citizens across the country the care they need and deserve.

“To our Republican colleagues considering this path, Democrats say: make our day. Your effort will fail, and this attack on our seniors will not stand.”

I hope Senator Schumer is right but with a Republican-controlled Senate, he will need a lot of backup from the people of the United States and it is we, elders, who best understand the consequences of Medicare privatization.

For when that time comes – and it may be as soon as early January – I have collected some information about how to take our message to Congress and make it as effective as possible. Having this information now will keep future posts on the issue much shorter.

THE BEST WAYS TO CONTACT CONGRESS
I found instructions from a former six-year Congressional staffer, Emily Ellsworth, with an excellent list of what does and does not make the biggest impact.

Twitter and Facebook do not work. Staffers hardly ever check them.

Emailing your representatives is better, but the staffers get so many emails and are so busy, they just use an algorithm to “batch them” and send out form letters in response. (Snailmail is, apparently, dead.)

At Lifehacker where I found this information, the reporter notes that Ms. Ellsworth specifically recommends phone calls:

”...phone calls have to be dealt with when they occur and they can’t be ignored. A large volume of phone calls can be overwhelming for office staffers, but that means that their bosses hear about it.

“Which office you target also matters. Members of Congress have offices in DC, but they also have offices in their home district that they represent. Target your letters and phone calls to your local office and you’ll have an easier time getting their attention.”

Also, says Ms. Ellsworth, “If you want to talk to your rep, show up at [local] town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can't ignore. Pack that place and ask questions.”

These and other instructions are included in Ellsworth's (irony alert) Twitter chain that is reproduced in full at Lifehacker.

CONGRESSIONAL EMAIL ADDRESSES AND PHONE NUMBERS
U.S. Senate contacts including D.C. and home district offices: You might have to search around to find the state office contacts but with a few exceptions, they are somewhere on the main page.

U.S. House of Representatives contacts including D.C. and home district offices – the latter sometimes called satellite offices: Although I have not looked at the web pages of all 435 Congress people, listings for district offices were on the pages I spot checked.

Over the years here, I've recommended other websites that list Congressional phone numbers but after my latest scrutiny, these appear to be the most thorough and best organized. New members of both the House and the Senate are sworn in on 3 January 2017. Obviously, newly-elected representatives may not have web pages yet on day one.

SCRIPTS FOR PHONE CALLS
Congressional staffers – at home and in Washington – are busy people. Another excellent suggestion is to prepare a short, to-the-point script you can read when you telephone your representatives.

A Google Doc by Kara Waite is messy but is packed with great information – especially this page of scripts (click on "Calling Scripts" at the top of the page). And in the future, I will create some sample scripts as a starting point you can personalize.


ELDER MUSIC: Classical Gas Goes Forth

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

Continuing this series of columns (originally named by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist) to highlight lesser known composers who are seldom heard on radio or in concert.

We shouldn't confuse JOHANN SCHOBERT with similarly surnamed Franz Schubert because they were different people. Besides, Franz is too well known to fit into this category.

Schobert

Jo was born in Silesia or Alsace or Nuremberg in 1720 or 1735 or 1740. We do know that he died, though, along with his wife, one of their children, a servant and four friends when Jo insisted that the mushrooms were edible.

In between all that he composed music and played the harpsichord and piano. Here is the first movement of his Piano Trio in B flat major, Op 16 No 1.

♫ Johann Schobert - Trio in B flat major, Op 16 No 1 (1)


Haydn is one of the biggest names in music, but it's not the famous Joseph we're interested in today, but his younger brother MICHAEL HAYDN.

Michael Haydn

Mike was also a gifted composer, so much so that quite a few of his works were attributed to his brother until recent times when modern scholarship has shown conclusively that they really belong to him. This is one such, the third movement of the Violin Concerto in B flat major.

♫ Michael Haydn - Violin Concerto in B flat major (3)


There have been several husband and wife composing teams, the most famous of whom would be Robert and Clara Schumann. They're a bit too well known for this column. In their place I give you the Dusseks, beginning with JAN DUSSEK.

Jan Dussek

Jan was a Czech composer and was widely travelled. He spent 10 years in London where he met Sophia. While in London he was instrumental (sorry) in the development of the modern piano. He wrote mostly for the piano, but he left quite a bit of music for the harp, Sophia's main instrument. This is the third movement of his Piano Quintet in F minor opus 41.

♫ Jan Dussek - Quintet in F minor opus 41 (3)


Jan's wife was SOPHIA DUSSEK.

Sophia Dussek

Sophia was born Sophia Corri in Edinburgh. Her father was Domenico Corri, also a composer of some note at the time. Besides, he was a music publisher, which was handy. Sophia was a singer, pianist and most notably, a harp player. It was for this that she wrote most of her music.

It wasn't all jolly times in the Dussek household, Sophia eventually went off and shacked up with another man (whom she employed to repair her harp – nudge nudge wink wink). Jan left town and they never saw each other again as he died soon afterwards.

This is the third movement of her Harp Sonata No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 2.

♫ Sophia Dussek - Sonata No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 2 (3)


JOHANN BACKOFEN was a German composer who also played the clarinet, harp, flute and bassett horn. Besides that, he was a painter of note.

Johann Backofen

That's really about all we know about Jo, even the year he died is unknown, but some say 1830 because some have to put a number to these things.

Okay, I'll mention the Basset horn: the Basset horn is rather like the clarinet but is larger and has a bit of a bend at the top near the mouth piece. Some examples have another bend in the middle or down the bottom near the horn where all the music comes out.

Here is the first movement of the Quintet in F Major for Bassett Horn and Strings.

♫ Johann Backofen - Quintet in F Major for Bassett Horn and Strings Op 9 (1)


BARBARA STROZZI was adopted by the Strozzi family; she was the daughter of papa (Giulio) Strozzi and his servant, Isabella Garzon.

Barbara Strozzi

It looks as if wardrobe malfunctions aren't only a modern phenomenon. That picture was painted by Bernardo Strozzi, who may be a close relative (or not – no one is quite certain).

Barbara was a singer of some renown and a composer as well, which is why she appears here. Dad was very encouraging of her talents, paying for her to study composition and he even had an academy built where she could perform.

It seems that she was the most prolific composer - man or woman - of secular vocal music in Venice in the middle of the seventeenth century. This is one of her compositions, Sete pur fastidioso, performed by the group LA VILLANELLA BASEL.

La Villanella Basel

♫ Barbara Strozzi - Sete pur fastidioso


FRANÇOIS DEVIENNE was a composer, musician (flute and bassoon mainly) and professor at the Paris Conservatory.

Francois Devienne

He managed to negotiate the Revolution successfully, possibly by setting up a Free School of Music that evolved into the National Institute of Music, and later the Paris Conservatory.

Most of his works are for various blowing instruments, the best known these days are for flute thanks to the work of the great Jean-Pierre Rampal. However, here is something slightly different, the first movement of his Oboe Sonata in G major, Op. 71 No. 1.

Francois Devienne - Oboe Sonata in G major, Op. 71 No. 1 (1)


JAN KALIVODA (or Johann Kalliwoda as the Germans would have it) was born in Prague and studied at the Prague Conservatory.

Jan Kalivoda

Jan was very prolific, and his work covers pretty much every genre of music (except opera, it seems). He was much admired by Robert Schumann who took note of what he was doing (particularly his symphonies).

He led a quiet life (unlike many composers) writing and playing music for many decades for Prince Karl Egon II of Fürstenberg. This is his Nocturne No. 3. Op. 186 for Piano and Viola.

♫ Jan Kalivoda - Nocturne No. 3. Op. 186


ANNA BON was born in Russia because her folks were also in the music biz and got about a bit.

Anna Bon

She was trained in Vienna and apparently became a virtuoso on several instruments but especially the flute. She continued the family tradition of travelling around until she married another musician and the rest of her life is missing from history.

Most of her works that are around today are for flute or harpsichord but here is one of her motets (for an alto singer) called Ad te Virgo caelestis Regina. It's performed by ENSEMBLE LA DONNA MUSICALE.

La Donna Musicale

♫ Ensemble La Donna Mujsicale - Ad te Virgo caelestis Regina


CARLOS BAGUER was taught music by his uncle who was the head organist and composer at the cathedral in Barcelona.

Carlos Baguer

Carlos took over that position when unc died. He's most noted for his symphonies (there are nineteen of them) and he quite obviously listened closely to those that Haydn wrote. He also wrote a lot of religious music, after all that's what he was employed to do.

We'll listen to a bit of a symphony, the second movement of Symphony No. 18 in B flat major.

♫ Carlos Baguer - Symphony No. 18 in B flat major (2)


INTERESTING STUFF – 26 November 2016

TWO FRIENDS FIND SOMETHING IN COMMON

There are all kinds of reasons to feel ambivalent about Amazon.com but this is not one of them.

TGB reader Tom Delmore sent this Amazon television commercial – images and an idea we need more of in this time of troubles we live in.

DEMENTIA RATE DROPPING IN ELDERS

When I was a kid and for years beyond, the universal bad news about health was cancer. In fact, for a long time, people whispered the word.

Times change and so do fears. For quite awhile the equivalent terror has been dementia and I have mentioned here more than once that I wonder, when I forget why I walked to the bedroom or have misplaced my keys, if that was indicative of incipient dementia. I know I'm not alone in those thoughts.

Now, a new nationwide study from the University of Michigan involving 21,000 people 65 and older reports that between the the years 2000 and 2012, the dementia rate dropped by 24 percent.

And nobody knows why. A greater amount of education may contribute to the drop but there are plenty of other possible reasons:

”Interestingly, the researchers noted that the drop in dementia prevalence occurred despite increases in the rates of certain conditions that can increase the risk of dementia: diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity...

“Still, more research is needed to identify all the factors contributing to the decline in dementia prevalence, the investigators said," reports Live Science.

The study is here. You will find reporting on the study here and here.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST TRAILER

When Disney announced it would produce a live-action movie of Beauty and the Beast, the critics came out in droves – no, no, no, only animation can work with such a story, they said.

For several years when I was a young girl, Beauty and the Beast was a favorite. I must have read it several dozen times, word for word and I still remember it fondly. From this trailer, I think the live action version looks marvelous.

Read more about the production here.

DID YOU READ A BOOK IN THE PAST YEAR?

Here is a shocker. A 2016 Pew Research study turned up the information that 26 percent of American adults have not read a book in the past year – barely changed since 2012.

Groups more likely to read books are college graduates, women and young adults. 67 percent of people 65 and older had read a book in the past year compared to 80 percent of young adults.

Here is a demographic breakdown of readers:

WhoHasNotReadBookChart

Although people are reading in many formats these days – tablets, ereaders, cell phones, desktop and laptop computers – the largest group, 38 percent, read print-only books. 28 percent read both print and electronic (as I do) and just 6 percent read in digital formats only.

There is a whole lot more information about American book reading habits at Pew Research.

A GOOD READ: FROM CHARLES SIMIC

Books are good things, but these days, even as a lot of embarrassingly awful crap is published online, there is also an abundance of great thinking and writing being done.

This week's contribution is from The New York Review of Books, written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Serbian/American, Charles Simic. He is acclaimed as a poet but I particularly like his prose (he has been writing essays for the NYRB for many years) which in his hands, on any subject, is poetry too.

His latest is titled, “Expendable America,” which captures in the most horribly beautiful way what I have been feeling but not capable expressing - at least not this well or as emphatically. Simic:

”The basic requirement for democratic governance – that the majority of the population agrees on the parameters of what is true and what is false – has been deliberately obfuscated in this country...

“To mislead one's fellow citizens on such a vast scale is evil. We've seen it before. Never the good old days, of course, but the vile stuff we imagined we'd never see again...

“Once the new president settles in and brings the dregs of our society into his administration and they appoint other corrupt and worthless men and women to other positions in the government and start settling scores with their political and personal enemies and keeping their most rabid following happy by deporting, persecuting, or physically abusing some minority, we won't need a crystal ball to tell us what's in store for us.”

It is unfair to quote these three out-of-context paragraphs. Read Simic's essay – as it should be, in full - here.

NYU STUDENT/ELDER HOUSING

There is a lot of support for intergenerational living projects but for the most part it doesn't get beyond research studies and TED talks.

One important exception is Judson Manor, a retirement community in Cleveland that since 2010 has been giving college music students free housing in exchange for the occasional concert. Here's short video about it:

The idea is slowly growing and now, New York University in Manhattan will be trying a pilot project next year. Here's a short radio report:

As the Washington Square News reported,

”Ellen Lovitz, the Senior Advisor to the President for Policy Analysis, explained via email that the pilot will initially consist of about 10 students.

“'During the first year we will assess how the program is working, and make any necessary adjustments, with the expectation that we will be able to scale up to larger numbers by the fall of 2018,' Lovitz said.

“'Our planning process will include consultation with students and with residents of the housing complex identified by University Settlement.'”

There are students and others who complain that the project isn't useful enough (of course they complain; it's New York). I think it's a great start at expanding elder/senior shared living.

You can read more here.

2016 TOP 50 BLOGS ABOUT AGEING

A TGB reader pointed this page out to me: The Healthcare Administrator website's list of top 50 ageing blogs for 2016.

It is published by an Alabama public school health teacher. I am not sure I understand the five criteria and the majority on the list target professionals in ageing services and businesses rather than old people themselves. Still, you might find some of them useful. The list is here.

A MARVELOUS COLLECTION OF PETE SOUZA PHOTOS

All eyes are on the president-elect these days as though President Barack Obama doesn't have another two months to go in his term.

But The Atlantic is on the case in the loveliest way. A fantastic collection of selected photographs covering eight years of the Obama administration from the official White House photographer, Peter Souza. (Souza was also official White House photographer during the Ronald Reagan years.)

In this one, a temporary White House staffer, Carlton Philadelphia, had brought his family to the Oval Office for a farewell photo with President Obama. Carlton’s son softly told the President he had just gotten a haircut like President Obama, and asked if he could feel the President’s head to see if it felt the same as his.

ObamaandSmallKid

Here is Obama visiting with victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

HurricaneSandyVictime2012

And this is Obama working past dark in the Oval Office.

Workinglate2013

There is a large collection of even better photographs at The Atlantic.

*'S NAME REMOVED FROM APARTMENT BUILDINGS

Residents of three apartment buildings successfully petitioned to have *'s name removed from their New York City dwellings. Here is short video report.

DOES A BEAR...

...scratch in the woods?

Apparently so. A lot. Thank reader Momcat Christi for this video.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Happy Thanksgiving 2016, Everyone

Some of us may have worried a bit about the outcome during the presidential election campaign but I doubt many – and certainly not me – could bring ourselves to deep-down, really believe our country would be where it is on this 2016 Thanksgiving.

Nevertheless, here we are, and developments from the transition team of the new regime have done little (well, read: nothing) to reassure that the American values reliably trusted (mostly) during our lifetimes still apply.

It is hard to be thankful when the bedrock of the greatest democracy history has known may not hold for much longer. But because, this week, we are only on the cusp of what is yet to be, let us be thankful for what we have. Here is a starter list:

Family
Children
Grandchildren
Friends
Favorite foods
Cats
Dogs
Good books
Nature
Laughter
Music
Add your own items to the list in the the comments below

Also, in my case, I am grateful for the best blog readers and commenters on the internet. Without you, I would not do this or, at least, I wouldn't enjoy it much. You are the best.

In 2013, I vowed that due to my delight at rediscovering Arlo Guthrie's epic Thanksgiving fable, Alice's Restaurant, after the decade or two it lay somewhere in memory limbo, I would make the song the annual holiday anthem of TimeGoesBy.

As I noted that year, I was equally delighted to discover that with a couple of minor lapses, I still knew the entire monologue by heart. I can't say why but it gives me a great deal of pleasure to sing along for the entire 18 minutes, which I took the time to do (with gusto again this year) before readying this post.

Maybe you would enjoy doing that too.

It's a fine ol' song, don't you think.

Just because I can and it's a holiday, I am giving myself a vacation from posting not only tomorrow, Thanksgiving itself, but Friday too (unless something comes over me and I change my mind). Enjoy your holiday and I'll be back here on Saturday with the latest list of Interesting Stuff.

For everyone who honors me year 'round by reading, commenting and/or generally hanging out here,

Thanksgiving