Have you noticed that almost every “news” story describes the people involved by their race? I find that … racist. What is the point of describing someone based on his or her race? A person’s race does not define that person. Even the hue of one’s skin has no bearing on the person’s thoughts, actions, morals, values, education level, intelligence, and so forth.
Imagine for a moment that instead of race, we described the color of shirt that the person happened to be wearing. It seems irrelevant to us, but what if it happened so often that you begin to think that people wearing red shirts tended to be more hostile or violent, while people wearing blue shirts tend to be calmer? It does not matter the shade of the color, just that the person was wearing either a red shirt or a blue shirt. Now, what about the people wearing purple shirts? They are technically wearing red AND blue. So, are they hostile and violent, or are they calm?
I know that sounds like a ridiculous example. But, describing people based on race seems just as ludicrous to me. Is your personality defined by your race? Or is it defined by a lifetime of experiences, some good and some bad? I think it is the latter. Does race affect our choices? Of course! If your parents are African-American, you probably know what collard greens are. A white person may not know what they are, and even if they know what collard greens are, they probably have never tasted them. Race helps to shape us, our customs, and our lives, but they do not define us.
We have seen the racial tensions in the United States increase in the past decade or so. Some say that they have always been there, just under the surface and now the media is finally bringing these issues into the light. That may be true. But, it’s also possible that the media is adding fuel to something that does not need to be inflamed.
However, when the media constantly describes the subjects of a news story by their race, it automatically sets up a division. Do we need to know whether the suspect was black, white, Hispanic, or some other race? Do we need to know the race of the national spelling bee champion? Does it matter? In 99% of the situations, race has no bearing on the story.
I would also like to suggest that describing people in racial terms in completely outdated and often inaccurate. First, there are so many interracial couples and individuals that it makes it difficult to accurately assign a race to a person. The best example of this is our last president. People claimed he was the first black president. But, he really wasn’t. He was mixed. To call him the first biracial president would be more accurate, but not completely. There may have been other biracial or multiracial presidents. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Dwight D. Eisenhower have all been reported to have had anywhere from 10% to 50% of African American blood. None have been confirmed nor proven false. So, what can we say for certain about President Obama? He was the president with the most melanin. In other words, he was the president with the darkest skin to date.
But that does bring an important issue to the forefront. With so many people being interracial, biracial, or multiracial, how can we accurately define a person’s race just by looking at him or her? We have seen errors before. A news report comes out describing someone as white, only to find out later that the person was really Hispanic, or someone described as black and we later find out that the person was Hispanic or Middle Eastern.
Even describing someone as black is not very descriptive. “Black” could refer to someone with a “milk chocolate” light brown color, anyone with dark brown / black skin, or anyone in between. Racial descriptions are simply not accurate in describing a person’s skin color, nor the person’s more important qualities of character and integrity. So, what should we do?
The answer to the currently inflamed racial tensions is quite simple. Shut up! Stop talking about race. Do not use it when describing another person. After all, you may be assigning a wrong racial designation to that person. So, stop labeling people based on what race you “think” that person is. It is highly inflammatory to refer to a person’s race. I think it should be considered discriminatory speech and be banned, but with a few caveats.
There are certainly times when the public has a “need to know” about the color of someone’s skin, although these situations are rare. One such time would be reporting on a story where a particular school has reported that someone has been trying to lure children into a vehicle when walking to and from school. Information about the vehicle and the person could be vital to protecting children. Describing the potential suspect by race does not go far enough and has the potential for inaccuracies. It would be better to describe the skin tone of the potential suspect by using a melanin scale, like the one below.
In situations where the public has a “need to know” in order to protect the public, a scale similar to the one above would be a more accurate tool to describe the person of interest. This takes the “race” out of the equation and allows us to view people as people of various shades, rather than some arbitrary label. As you can see from the scale above, someone who is a 7 – 9 could be a tan Caucasian, a light skinned African American, a Hispanic, a Middle Easterner, or any combination of those. The racial label is not a full and complete picture, but using the scale above gives a more defined and accurate description, without assigning a racial label.
Racial tensions will not decrease immediately. But over time, we will see a dramatic shift in American culture. When we stop talking about each other in racial terms, we will start to see each other as simply Americans. Sure, we will still be able to see the diverse skin tones, but those skin tones will not be a factor of the person inside the skin. Rather we will see the skin tone as irrelevant to the person’s character as the color of shirt the person is wearing.
Of course there are a few situations where the racial label will still be needed, such as in medical situations. There are some disorders and diseases that only afflict certain racial groups or are more prevalent in certain racial groups. However, these are situations where the racial label is only spoken of in confidential settings, such as between a doctor and his or her patient.
We may not be able to completely erase racial discrimination, but we certainly have the opportunity to decimate the vast majority of it by simply starving it of oxygen. When the media uses racial labels to describe people, it shines a magnifying glass on race, making something insignificant seem gigantic. It is time to rethink racial labels, how discriminatory, and how ripe for mislabeling they are. It is time to be united, as one people, as Americans, as humans. The only real race we all belong to is the human race. And if you think different racial groups are all that different from each other, just remember that the fairest of white people and the darkest of black people, still share 99.9% of their DNA (National Human Genome Research Institute, FAQ page, “Why are genetics and genomics important to my health?”, https://www.genome.gov/19016904/faq-about-genetic-and-genomic-science/, updated 3/2/2016, retrieved 5/8/2018). So, why do we quibble over that measly 0.1%? Sounds a little juvenile and insignificant, don’t you think?
Freedom Health Plan Bill
I. Unleashing the Funds
In order to reinvent our health care system, we have to ensure that there are funds available for the new plan. This requires us to separate healthcare from employment by stipulating that employers would no longer provide health insurance for their employees. However, there MUST be a key requirement that the employers would be required to funnel 80% of their “healthcare savings” back to their employees in the form of higher wages and salaries.
What most people do not understand about health insurance that you receive through your employer is that the employer often pays 60% - 85% of the cost of the monthly premiums (77.7% for single plans, 72% for family plans). Some employers pay higher percentages, some pay lower percentages. These numbers are the national averages. Nationally, it costs an average of $530.67 per month for a single plan and $1,557.25 per month for the family plans. If you have health insurance premiums coming out of your paycheck and your deductions over the course of a month do not equal these amounts, that’s because your employer is paying the rest of that monthly premium for you.
So, if you have $500 coming out of your paychecks each month, via payroll deductions, your employer is probably paying $1000 per month towards that monthly premium, totaling $1500 per month in premiums for your family plan. Obviously, if employers no longer provide the health insurance, the company will be saving a TON of money. But, we would require that they funnel the majority of those savings back to their employees via raises in wages and salaries.
It may sound complicated, but it isn’t. Businesses file taxes and they itemize all of their expenses. The company only needs two numbers to calculate how much this raise would be.
A = Total Annual Cost of Healthcare Premiums Paid on Behalf of All Employees Combined
B = Multiply “A” by 0.8 (which is 80%) to get the Amount of money going back to employees
C = Total Number of Hours Worked per Year by All Employees (regardless if they had the employer insurance or not, regardless of whether they were even eligible) (This also includes FT, PT, Temp, Seasonal, Hourly, Salary, etc.)
Formula: B/C = Amount of Raise per Hour for each Employee in the company
This means that EVERYONE in the company gets a raise. If your manager gets a $2 per hour raise, so do you. If the employee is a salary employee, the “per hour” raise is simply multiplied by 2080 (40 hrs/week * 52 weeks/year). In this scenario, the salary employee would get a $4,160 per year raise, or about $80 extra per week.
Based on my calculations, it appears that the average employee would get about $2 - $4 per hour raise. Even with a mere $2.50 per hour raise, this translates into an extra $400 per month or an extra $5,200 per year!
However, that is not where the benefits end. Not only would you get a raise, but you would no longer have health insurance premiums being deducted from your paychecks. So, if you currently have $500 being deducted from your paychecks during a month, that money is also back in your paycheck. Adding your $400 per month raise and the $500 you are saving on premiums, you have an extra $900 in your pocket each and every month. Of course, you don’t have health coverage either. But, hang in there. We will get to that in a moment.
Another requirement under the Freedom Health Plan is that these new wages and salaries are required to be the new baseline for the company’s wages and salaries. This protects the employee in the event that he or she is making $15 per hour, then goes up to $17 per hour after the changes, but gets fired so the company can hire someone else at your lower, former wage of $15. The new wages and salaries will be required to remain the same, or higher, for all future employees.
End Result: Average American worker will have an extra $900 per MONTH in his or her pocket!
II. Major Medical & Health Savings Account = 2 Part Health Care
Since people will no longer have health insurance through their employers, they need coverage from somewhere else. We can completely re-invent HealthCare.gov as an “information only” website that has all the valuable information every American would need. It would consist of at least three different sections (possibly more) – Major Medical, Health Savings Accounts, and Health Care Blue Book. Let’s go through each one of these.
A. Major Medical Plans
The first section of HealthCare.gov would be for Major Medical plans. You would be able to go into this section of the website and compare Major Medical plans side by side, based on searchable criteria, like deductible, premium amount, coinsurance, maximum out-of-pocket, lifetime limits, and so forth.
When you find the plan you like best and which suits your needs best, click on the link for that plan. Instead of you applying through the government (middle man), you are re-routed to that insurance company’s website and the page specific to that particular plan. Then you purchase that Major Medical plan directly from the insurance company.
First, all of the Major Medical plans would need to be “Nationwide Plans”, which means that you can use that insurance anywhere in the United States. You will not be limited geographically to only one location. We are a much more mobile society in the 21st century, so we need Major Medical that fits with our mobility.
Second, these Major Medical plans would cover any dependent up to age 26. This provides coverage for adult children who are in college and still building a foundation in their lives and it will act as a transition from “mom & dad’s plan” to getting onto the adult child’s own Major Medical plan.
Third, these Major Medical plans cover all of those big health care expenses – accidents, heart attacks, emergency room visits, expensive tests, and so much more. These Major Medical plans would NOT normally cover office visits, routine labs and x-rays, most prescriptions, and other minor health care products and services. They would only cover the BIG expenses.
Fourth, whichever plan you choose, you can stay with that plan for as long as you would like, even your entire life, if that’s what you want to do. It would be like your cell phone carrier or auto insurance company, where you can change anytime you want, but you don’t have to change. For many people, they would choose once and stay with that plan for their entire life, never again feeling the need to re-evaluate their options. Under our current system, most people have to re-evaluate their health insurance every year. This plan is truly a one-and-done choice, unless you decide to shop around for a better deal at some later date.
According to Trusted Choice, Major Medical plans range from $30 - $300 per month, with the average premium being $176 per month. Even if you get the $300 per month type of Major Medical Plan and use part of your extra $900 to pay for it, you will still have an extra $600 each month in your pocket.
The health insurance companies have to report their rates to the government annually to be on HealthCare.gov portal. This provides full transparency, including who the contracted providers are for that particular plan.
2. Basic or With Riders
Although this is only Major Medical coverage, without preventative or routine care benefits, the insurance companies would be permitted to offer “riders” for the Major Medical plans. These “riders” would cover additional services, but with additional costs. The riders would be completely optional for the consumer, but often pricey. Examples of riders would be: 1) 3 office visits per year for an additional $20 per month, 2) 5 mental health visits per year for an additional $30 per month, and so on. This would ease the transition from the insurance model to this new health care model for people who are nervous about this new health care system and want the security of preventive insurance.
People with pre-existing conditions cannot be turned down. People with pre-existing conditions would pay a little more, but that would be capped at 50% higher than the regular premium. So, if the regular price for a particular plan is $200 per month, the person with a pre-existing condition would pay $200 - $300 per month for that plan. This allows the burden of high risk people to be shared among all people (with pre-existing and without pre-existing), but with the high risk patient taking on a larger burden than the patients without pre-existing. This is a compassionate, but fair burden sharing.
Pre-existing would no longer be a lifetime sentence under the Freedom Health Plan. If the patient has not needed treatment for at least 5 years, the patient’s former diagnosis is merely a part of the patient’s medical record and history, but no longer considered a pre-existing condition for coverage. The patient would no longer pay the higher premiums and would have his or her monthly premium reduced to the regular (base) level.
The patient would have to continue with regular check-ups and exams to document that the pre-existing condition no longer exists. Two prime examples are below:
Childhood asthma: The patient battled with asthma as a child, but as he or she grew up, he or she “outgrew” the asthma. Maybe the patient changed his or her lifestyle to reduce the effects of asthma, reducing the incidents and/or severity of the attacks. If the patient continues regular check-ups, but has not needed any treatment for at least 5 years, the condition is considered “resolved” and is no longer a pre-existing condition.
Cancer: The patient is diagnosed with cancer and gets treatment. The cancer, thankfully, goes into remission. The patient keeps going to his or her oncologist for check-ups and tests, but the cancer remains in remission for over 5 years. The patient requests that the oncologist share the records regarding the check-ups and test results with the insurance company so the patient can get the lower (base) rates again.
4. Lapse in Coverage
People who have gone 60 days or longer without a major medical plan would pay up to 50% higher for their plans for 12 months. This is to encourage people to get and maintain a major medical plan. After the 12 months of higher rates, the rate would drop back down to the regular (base) monthly premium.
5. Incentive for HSA and Preventive Maintenance
Consumers who also show that they have a HSA and have at least one (1) physical per year are eligible for a 10% discount on their premiums for 12 months, renewable each year.
This encourages consumers to maintain a Major Medical Plan, a HSA, and engage in prevention by having regular checkups.
The discount rate is “flexible”, meaning that we could make the discount a little higher, but anything lower than 10% would be too nominal (small) to be an incentive for preventive care and investment into an HSA.
6. Tax Deductible
The premium payments are tax deductible when you file taxes each year.
7. One Caveat
Some people may think that they would only need the inexpensive Major Medical plan and not get an HSA, relying on going to the emergency room whenever they need care. To discourage this costly practice, there would be one caveat built into this plan. Hospitals would be allowed to deny non-emergency services IF the patient can reasonably get care from a doctor’s office and it is during normal business hours.
There would be exceptions to this rule, such as when the condition is not critical, but it is after normal office hours (defined at Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm) AND the condition runs the risk of becoming critical by the time normal business hours resume.
An example would be someone who has been suffering with symptoms of the stomach flu and has not been able to eat or drink water for hours, not seeking treatment because he or she thought it would pass. Now, the patient is showing symptoms of dehydration (dizziness, lightheadedness). If it is 10am on a Tuesday (and not a holiday), the emergency room would be able to deny care and advise the patient to go to a doctor’s office. However, if it is 10pm on a Friday night, the emergency room would be required to treat the patient because this situation has a great likelihood of becoming critical before a doctor’s office will office in 2 ½ days.
B. Health Savings Accounts
The second section of HealthCare.gov would be for the Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). These are basically a bank (savings) account that you manage. In this section of the HealthCare.gov website, you compare HSAs side-by-side, based on the criteria that are important to you (interest rates, services covered under that HSA account, minimum amount to sign up, minimum balance needed to maintain account, penalties, fees, etc.).
Again, when you find the HSA you want and click on it, you get re-routed to that financial institution’s website and the page specific to that HSA. You set up your HSA with that financial institution, not through the government. They will send you a card that looks like a credit card, but it will have “HSA” on it.
You can contribute as little or as much as you want and as frequently or seldom as you want. You can even use part of your income tax return to fund it for the year or part of the year.
You get to choose how you want to fund your HSA. Families that need more office visits, labs, x-rays, prescriptions, and other minor health care products and services would need to put more money into their HSA to ensure that there is enough to cover those expenses. If you have a fairly healthy family that doesn’t go to the doctor much, doesn’t require many prescriptions, you may not want to put as much into your HSA. It’s highly personalized.
The great thing about the HSAs is that you get to use it for a much broader assortment of health care products and services. Just some of the products and services that you can use your HSA for include (but are not limited to):
|Gauze||Gym Memberships||Essential Oils|
|Therapeutic Massage||Homeopathic Physicians||OTC Medication (Tylenol, Advil, etc.)|
|Vitamins, minerals, and supplements||Premiums for Major Medical Plan||Co-pays and Deductibles for Major Medical Plan|
The bottom line is that it is your money and you have the exclusive right to determine what medical products and services you want to spend it on. Your care no longer will be dictated by some insurance company.
To use your HSA, you swipe your HSA card and the “medical” products and/or services are deducted from your HSA and paid to the provider. If you are at the grocery store and buy Tylenol and groceries, you swipe the HSA card first and it deducts the cost of the Tylenol, leaving the grocery balance, which you pay for like you do now.
You get to manage your HSA just like you manage your other expenses in life – food, utilities, and housing, to name a few. Of course you need a nifty tool to help you make those health care decisions such as who is the best provider for YOU. We will get to that in a moment. But first, the details of the HSA account:
The HSA would be an interest-baring account. This money can grow for you.
2. Rolled Over
The HSA can be rolled over from year to year, allowing the consumer to accumulate a large sum over time. This would allow young adults to contribute monthly for decades, and if used sparingly, it would result in plenty of money to cover out-of-pocket health related expenses in the later years of his or her life, when much more medical care will be needed.
3. Merged / Divided
The HSA can be merged (such as when two people marry) and divided (such as in the event of a divorce, where the HSA would be divided based on the divorce agreement or judgment by a divorce judge).
The HSA can be willed to beneficiaries. This way, the money is never “lost”, but can continue to be used by whomever the consumer chooses, even after death. The amount being willed can all be transferred to the beneficiary’s HSA account, or it can be split between the beneficiary’s HSA and a cash payment. However, at least 50% of the willed amount must be transferred to the beneficiary’s HSA, with 50% or less being available in cash payment.
An example would be if John Doe dies with $80,000 in his HSA, leaving it to his 2 children. Each child gets $40,000, of which at least $20,000 must go into the child’s HSA account. However, the child would be able to take any amount up to $20,000 in cash payment, with the rest going into the child’s HSA. Child #1 may want $10,000 in cash and put $30,000 in his HSA, while his sister (child #2) may want $20,000 in cash and put $20,000 in her HSA.
Minor Beneficiary: If a beneficiary is still a minor, 100% of the amount the beneficiary has been willed needs to be transferred into the minor’s HSA account to ensure that the minor has funds for medical purposes.
The consumer can adjust his or her contributions at any time, giving themselves the ultimate in flexibility.
6. Pauses in Contributions
The consumer can even stop making contributions without affecting the HSA account. The money is still there and available, can be used for products and services, and will never be lost or restricted, unless there is a lack of funds.
7. Tax Deductible
The contributions to the HSA are tax-deductible.
III. Medicaid: From Service Provider to Funds Provider
Medicaid would go from providing health care services to providing the money for health care products and services. Medicaid recipients would receive a monthly “award” amount based on income and family size, but the family would manage those funds just like everyone else. The Medicaid recipient would have a Major Medical plan that he or she chooses, and have a HSA that he or she chooses.
Medicaid would pay the premium amount for the recipient’s Major Medical plan and put the remaining balance into the recipient’s HSA. As an example, if the Medicaid recipient is “awarded” $580 per month, and the recipient has a Major Medical plan with a $300 per month premium, Medicaid would pay that $300 premium directly to the insurance company and deposit the remaining $280 into the recipient’s HSA account.
Consumer Control: The Medicaid recipient would manage his or her own HSA just like everyone else. There would not be a special Major Medical plan, or HSA, for Medicaid recipients. Medicaid recipients would have the same options to choose from as everyone else. The only difference is that the government is making the payments and/or deposits.
Seamless & Non-Discrimination: This makes it possible to keep the same Major Medical plan and HSA account throughout your entire life. You can change jobs, go on Medicaid, go off of Medicaid, continue to change jobs, and have the same Major Medical plan and HSA account. This provides seamless coverage throughout life. Because there are no special plans or ID cards for the Medicaid recipients, providers would not be able to tell if you funded your HSA yourself or if Medicaid funded your HSA. This eliminates discrimination based on economic status.
Breaking Point: There is one caveat that would also need to be in place, which is a “breaking point” for Medicaid’s contribution to a recipient’s HSA. If the recipient has at least $5,000 in his or her HSA, that month’s contribution is forfeited. For example, if the recipient usually gets $200 per month deposited into his HSA each month, but has $5,010 in his HSA on June 6th (his disbursement date), Medicaid will not make the June deposit into the HSA (but they would still pay the premium on the Major Medical Plan). But, if he goes to the doctor or gets a prescription during the month of June and by July 6th, his HSA is at $4,900, Medicaid will make his $200 July deposit into his HSA, but he would not get the “back pay” from June because that was forfeited.
The point of that is to ensure people have plenty in their HSA, but without the government (taxpayers) helping people who do not need the help. For most people, having at least $5,000 in your HSA is enough to handle most medical needs.
We can provide a minimum of $500 per Medicaid household, with the average Medicaid household receiving $750 per month (between Major Medical premiums and HSA deposits). This puts Medicaid recipients right on par with other working individuals who are self-funding their Major Medical and HSAs. But, the real beauty of this is that we can provide this at half the cost of Medicaid.
In 2017 (most recent data), we spent $581.9 BILLION on Medicaid. In September 2018, there were 73,420,626 people enrolled in Medicaid. This is a cost of $7,925.56 per Medicaid recipient ($660.46 per month per person). With the average American household of 2 – 3 people, that would be an average monthly Medicaid household cost of $1,320 – $1,981 (avg. $1651). This is about twice the monthly household amount under this proposed plan.
In essence, we would be providing much better health care to our Medicaid recipients, but at half the cost, saving taxpayers approximately $290.95 BILLION per year! Doesn’t better care for half the price sound good for everyone?
There would be some additions to the requirements for Medicaid though.
A. Drug Testing
As long as the recipient is on Medicaid, the recipient would be subjected to spontaneous drug testing. If the recipient tests positive, he or she would be directed to treatment programs (paid for by Medicaid) in order to continue receiving benefits. The goal is to help out those who are going through rough times, not to finance an addiction. Yet, we will provide the assistance needed to help the person recover from addiction. This is not meant to be a punishment, but to act as an aid to achieving better health.
B. Job Seeking & Volunteerism
All adults (non-disabled, non-pregnant, and capable of working), must prove attempts to find employment, and commit to volunteer a minimum of 10 hours per week. The volunteer jobs can be coordinated through the recipient’s case worker.
This keeps the Medicaid recipient engaged in society and helps them to maintain a work ethic. It also combats depression that can set in after prolonged unemployment.
C. Time Limits
We would also have the option to set time limits for receiving Medicaid to discourage people from becoming reliant on Medicaid. The goal is for able-bodied adults to work and contribute to society as a whole. Medicaid is a tool for helping people through life’s rough patches.
IV. Special Circumstance Patients
Although this plan would provide great coverage for the normal family, there are some people that have much higher monthly health care costs and the typical HSA amounts would not be enough to cover their health care costs. I refer to these patients as “special circumstance patients”. People who have high monthly health care expenses would apply for “Special Circumstance Medicaid” to assist them with their higher costs, even if they would not qualify for regular Medicaid.
If your monthly medical costs are high, you apply for this specialized “Medicaid.” Even if you do not qualify for regular Medicaid, you may qualify for this Special Circumstance Medicaid because it is based on your needed medical costs minus (-) your reasonable contribution to your HSA. If your costs are $1000 per month, but you can only afford to put $300 into your HSA each month, you would get a “special circumstance” Medicaid award of $700 - $800 deposited into your HSA each month that you qualify. You would still provide your typical $300 deposit into your HSA.
This is a supplemental plan, specially tailored to those with higher health care needs. This either supplements your personally funded HSA or it may supplement your regular Medicaid. Either way, you WILL be taken care of one way or another.
But, how will we be able to pay for these extra payments? Since we are saving over $290.95 Billion per year on regular Medicaid, we can use some (maybe $30 Billion - $50 Billion) of that to fund this specialized, supplemental Medicaid. Yet, we will still save a LOT on Medicaid.
Medicare has four parts for it. Part A is the hospitalization/major medical part, for when you go into the hospital or need expensive treatments. Part B is for most other medical care (office visits, labs, x-rays, etc.). Part C is just a combo plan that includes Part A and Part B. Part D is the prescription plan, for all of your prescriptions. Since Part C is a bundle of Parts A & B, we don’t have to specifically address it. We will stick to Parts A, B, and D.
Medicare serves a vital need in the community by providing health care for our elderly. We can save money without touching Medicare. Medicare stays exactly the same as it is now, but with one simple caveat. You cannot sign up for Medicare Part B or Medicare Part D if you have at least $5,000 in an HSA account. However, you can sign up for Medicare Part A, regardless of how much you have in an HSA.
However, once your HSA account dips below $5,000, you sign up for Medicare Parts B & D. Notice that you “sign up”, not “apply”. You do not need it “apply”, as long as you are Medicare eligible under the age qualifications, you are already eligible. It’s just a matter of the amount in your HSA account.
This is not a limit on Medicare recipients. No benefit is being taken away. For example, if you have $10,000 in your HSA, you use that to pay for your office visits, labs, x-rays, and prescriptions. But, before that HSA is fully depleted, you are already on Medicare Parts B & D. You are simply using your HSA first, saving taxpayers billions of dollars each year.
How will this affect Medicare in the future? In the beginning, not much will be affected. But, as time marches on and the years pass, fewer and fewer people will need Medicare Parts B & D, for longer periods of time in their twilight years.
Example 1: John and Sue are 60 years old. They will be Medicare eligible in 5 years. That’s not a lot of time to build an HSA account. They may have $3,000 in their HSA by age 65. At age 65, they sign up for Medicare Parts A, B, & D because they do not have more than $5,000 in their HSA. They are basically unaffected by the one and only change to Medicare by this bill, just as the current recipients are unaffected.
Example 2: Jim and Mary are 45. They have 20 years before they become Medicare eligible. They are able to put $400 per month in their HSA, totaling $4,800 per year. They use an average of $1,500 per year for their medical expenses. They are saving $3,300 per year in their HSA. Since they have 20 years until they are Medicare eligible, they will have saved $66,000 (principal only, interest would make this significantly higher) in their HSA by the time they are Medicare eligible. If Jim and Mary are in good health, eat right, and exercise, that $66K could last 5 – 10 years before it gets down to only $5,000 left. Jim and Mary just saved taxpayers over $60,000 over the past 5 – 10 years. That may not seem like a lot, but when you multiply it by millions of people, it begins to add up to significant savings for the taxpayer.
Example 3: Mike and Kate are 25 year old newlyweds. They are just starting out in life after college. They contribute about $300 to their HSA each month in anticipation of well-baby and well child visits in the future. They are contributing $3,600 per year and use an average of $1,500 per year over the next 40 years (less during childless years and during empty nest years, more during childrearing years). That’s a savings of $2,100 per year for 40 years, or $84,000 (principal only, interest would make this significantly higher) in their HSA at the age of retirement. Mike and Kate will save the taxpayers from more than half of their post-retirement medical expenses!
Now, this could be even higher if Mike and Kate increase their HSA contributions, have lower costs over the years, inherit any HSA money from their parents, and of course, there is the interest that will accrue over this time period, which has not been factored in.
All future amounts are calculated in today’s dollars, because even as costs may go up due to inflation, incomes typically also go up, making it possible to contribute even more per month. All amounts would be expected to increase in similar fashion.
Reducing Medicare Premiums:
Medicare recipients pay monthly premiums for their Medicare Parts B, C, and D out of their monthly Social Security checks. These recipients have already paid into Medicare for decades, and now that they are seniors they have to pay again in order to have Medicare. This is an assault on our elderly.
The 2019 premiums for Medicare Part B range from $135.50 – $460.50 per month. The average estimated monthly premium for Medicare Part D for 2019 is $33.19. This is a combined monthly premium of $168.69 - $493.69 per month. The average Social Security monthly benefit for a retired worker is $1414.37.
This reduces our seniors’ meager $1,414.37 income to around $1,245.68 per month. This is an annual $14,948.16, which is approximately 11.6% below the federal poverty level for a household of 2 people.
This Freedom Health Plan will make Medicare more solvent as time goes on, ensuring that we take care of our seniors even better in the future than what we are currently. Many of our seniors are living in poverty already. Charging them for Medicare (which they have already spent decades paying for) is kicking them when they are down. Our seniors deserve to be treated better, with more honor and dignity.
VI. Managing Your Health Care
As we leap into the 21st Century with advanced technology, we can now bring that advanced technology into the field of healthcare, to give the 21st Century Family the resources to make healthcare easier, and more affordable.
The first tool, Health Care Blue Book, provides you with the information needed to find the absolute best provider for YOU, but at the most reasonable cost. The second tool, Telemedicine, incorporates a wide variety to technologies to make access to health care providers easier and make that access more mobile, for the busy family on the go.
Both of these modern tools allow for the cost of health care to decrease, while improving access to providers. Providers are better able to manage their time, so they can treat more people in less time. Everyone wins.
A. Health Care Blue Book
The third section of HealthCare.gov would be “Health Care Blue Book”. This is where you can compare providers of health care services. You go to this section of “HealthCare.gov” and put in the criteria that matter to you and your family, such as zip code, distance you are willing to travel outside your zip code for health care, and a type of service. This pulls up a list of all the providers in that geographical area and lists them by the prices that they charge for that particular service.
Above the list of providers, there is a bar that shows the lowest amount and highest amount charged for that service in that geographical area. It also lists a “fair market value” for that service. The providers in the provider list would be color coded. It would look a little like this:
The providers in the green section charge “at or below Fair Price”. The providers in the yellow charge “slightly above Fair Price”. And the providers in the red charge “Highest Price”. As you can see from the example above, the range is $39 - $101+, with the Fair Price at $58.
Price is not the only way to choose a provider. There are many other criteria that each of us has for choosing a provider. The consumer can click on any of the providers listed below the Price Bar and a “pop-up window” comes up with additional information about that specific doctor. Some of the additional information would include, but not limited to:
|Provider's Name||Office Address||Office Phone and Fax|
|Accepting New Patients?||Language Spoken||Year (s)he became licensed|
|Year (s)he finished residency||Where (s)he went to medical school||Ratings and Reviews from other patients|
This makes it possible for every American to find the best provider that fits that American’s specific criteria, but also at the lowest cost. All of us want the best at the lowest cost. This would make it possible to do that with health care.
You no longer have a limited list of “contracted providers” to choose from. You can choose ANY provider in your geographical area. This tool makes it possible for you to find the perfect provider for you, but at the lowest cost.
The providers that charge the most would not have as many patients, encouraging those “expensive” providers to either, 1) justify their excessive rates, 2) lower their rates, or 3) go out of business. Regardless of what they do, this lowers the cost of healthcare products and services to a market-sustainable level that makes providers and patients happy.
B. Telehealth Service
An emerging and growing segment of the health care industry is telehealth services. Telemedicine and Telehealth services is defined as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.”
It includes Live Videoconferencing (2-way audiovisual link between the patient and provider). This is a much more cost effective way to manage health care costs. The savings could be as much as $100 each time you use telehealth services instead of an office visit with your doctor.
“Looking at the commercial market, this study found that the average estimated cost of a telehealth visit is $40 to $50 per visit compared to the average estimated cost of $136 to $176 for in-person acute care.”
“Patient issues are able to be resolved during the initial telehealth visit an average of 83 percent of the time."
This is just another form of savings for the American family trying to save on the cost of healthcare.
By overhauling the entire system, we are able to drive down costs to a market-sustainable level, provide savings for businesses, employees, the government, and even the providers. The headaches of choosing a health plan every year are gone, as are the majority of paperwork in the providers’ offices. Most providers would get paid at the time services are rendered. We cut out the middle man which only served to drive up costs. We are providing the same level of care for our poor as we do for our workers. We are saving taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars each year. We are taking care of the high risk people and the people with high health care needs. Pre-existing conditions are no longer a life sentence. We make health care more accessible for the busy, modern family. We eliminate discrimination based on Medicaid status. We protect and insulate our seniors from high premiums and are beginning to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. We overhaul healthcare to make sense in the 21st century. Common sense, user-friendly, seamless, low cost, compassionate, modernized, and wholesale healthcare for everyone! That’s the Freedom Health Plan!
 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Average Annual Single Premium per Enrolled Employee for Employed-Based Health Insurance: 2017, https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/single-coverage/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D, accessed October 7, 2018.
 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Average Annual Family Premium per Enrolled Employee for Employed-Based Health Insurance: 2017, https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/family-coverage/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D, accessed October 7, 2018.
 Trusted Choice, https://www.trustedchoice.com/health-insurance/coverage-types/catastrophic-major-medical/, accessed October 8, 2018.
 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, “NHE Fact Sheet: Historical NHE, 2017”, https://www.cms.gov/research-statistics-data-and-systems/statistics-trends-and-reports/nationalhealthexpenddata/nhe-fact-sheet.html, accessed January 28, 2019.
 Medicaid.gov, Monthly Medicaid & CHIP Application, Eligibility Determination, and Enrollment Reports & Data, September 2018, https://data.medicaid.gov/Enrollment/2018-09-Updated-applications-eligibility-determina/hbh7-cy5y/data, accessed January 28, 2019.
 Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicare, Cubanski, Juliette and Neuman, Tricia, “The Fact on Medicare Spending and Financing”, Figure 2 (“Medicare Benefit Payments for Part A, B, and D, 2007 and 2017”), https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/the-facts-on-medicare-spending-and-financing/, published June 22, 2018, accessed October 25, 2018.
 Medicare.gov, Part B Costs: How Much Does Part B Cost?, https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-b-costs, accessed January 28, 2019.
 Social Security Administration, Research, Statistics & Policy Analysis, “Monthly Statistical Snapshot, December 2018”, Table 2: “Social Security benefits, December 2018”, citing: Social Security Administration, Master Beneficiary Record, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/, accessed October 25, 2018.
 The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), “Telemedicine and Telehealth”, https://www.healthit.gov/topic/health-it-initiatives/telemedicine-and-telehealth, accessed October 25, 2018.
 Yamamoto, Dale H., “Assessment of the Feasibility and Cost of Replacing In-Person Care with Acute Care Telehealth Services”, December 2014, accessed October 25, 2018.
What Is Wrong With Health Care in America?
During the 2016 election cycle, health care became a hotly debated topic. Many opposed The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ACA or ObamaCare) and wanted it repealed and replaced, although most people were not sure with which to replace it. Many others argued that the ACA needed to be fixed, again not supplying any ideas about how to do that. I am old enough to remember what health care was like before the ACA. Back in the mid-1990’s, politicians were screaming about the “health care crisis.” The ACA was supposed to be a “fix” for this “health care crisis”, but it ended up making the problem worse.
Before we can “fix” the ACA or “repeal and replace” the ACA, we need to do a full scale examination of the problems with the ACA and the health care system that existed before the ACA became law. If we do not identify the health care problems of the last 40+ years, we will never be able to solve the problem and the best we can hope for is a Band-Aid on a gaping problem.
Upon examination, we can easily identify two major problems with the health care system we have had for the past 60+ years. Most of the minor problems typically fall under one of these two major problems. The two major problems in the American Health Care System are 1) the marriage between healthcare and employment, and 2) insurance for every medical issue, big and small. Although you may not think these are major issues, let me explain each one in depth to show you how these two major flaws and crippling healthcare in America.
Marriage Between HealthCare and Employment
- Employer-Based Insurance Suppresses Wages
According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), 49% of Americans are covered by employer-provided healthcare. According to the official Census, in 2015, 55.7% of the population is covered by employer-based health insurance for some or all of the year. From these two, very reputable and official sources, we can see that about half, or just over half, of the population is covered by employer-based health insurance. This means that these people are getting their health insurance through their employers.
In my experience, most people do not really understand how insurance, and especially employer-based insurance, works. Luckily, since I spent nine years working for a major health insurance company, I have a wealth of experience in this arena and can explain it.
First, you need to understand the players involved and the various contracts involved. As an employee, you have a contract with your employer. The employee provides his or her time, energy, knowledge, skills, education, etc. to the employer for a designated amount of hours per day, week, or month. In return, the employer provides the employee (worker) with compensation (your paycheck) and certain benefits (paid sick time, paid vacation time, health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, etc.). The employer (company) also has a contract with the insurance company, which lays out what medical procedures and services will be covered, how much they will be covered for, how much money the employer will provide for the coverage of these services, how much the employer will pay the insurance company for processing (paying and/or denying) the claims (bills) submitted by the medical providers (doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, etc.) and much more. Then there are the contracts between the insurance company and the providers, which detail what is covered, how much is covered, etc. The providers want as much as they can get for the services they provide. The insurance company wants to pay the least. This is hammered out in negotiations.
When the cost of health insurance premiums go up, this cost is passed on to the consumer. If you have employer-based coverage, that cost is going on to your employer and you. When you have insurance through your employer, typically the employer pays a portion of your monthly premium and you pay a portion of your monthly premium through your payroll deductions. What comes out of your paycheck for each pay period usually is NOT the full cost of the premium. It’s just your portion. Typically, employers pay between 70% - 85% of your monthly premium and you pay only 15% - 30% of the premium. So, if you are upset about your portion going up, remember that your employer’s portion went up a lot more!
In 2017, the typical family policy costs $18,687 per year in premiums, with the average employer contribution being $13,469 and the average employee contribution being $5,218. This means that the monthly premium is $1557.25, with the employer paying $1,122.41 per month and the employee paying $434.83 per month.
If the health insurance premium goes up by only 10% this year, this means that the total cost will go up by $1,868.70. Ten percent is astronomically low, considering that premiums have risen 34% in 2018. If your employer had intended to give you a $1,000 raise this year (which works out to 48 cent per hour for full time), your employer may instead apply this $1,000 raise to the higher cost of your insurance premiums instead of giving it directly to you. But, that $1,000 raise will not cover all of the increase in premium. So, the remaining $868.70, may be split between you and your employer. So, you will think your employer is not giving you a raise and on top of that, your portion of your premiums (taken out of your paycheck) will go up, resulting in less bring-home pay for you. However, your employer IS giving you a raise, it’s just that it’s going towards the increase in health insurance premiums.
Employers have not always provided health insurance. In 1942, as World War II was in full swing, the demand for workers climbed sharply because the men were leaving the workforce to go fight in the war, yet there was a larger demand for goods to support the war effort. As employers started raising wages to attract workers from the diminished workforce pool, “Congress passed the Stabilization Act of 1942, which allowed the President to freeze wages and salaries for all of the nation’s workers.” On October 3, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9250 Establishing the Office of Economic Stabilization. In Title II (Wage and Salary Stabilization Policy), section 1 of this Executive Order, it states:
No increases in wage rates, granted as a result of voluntary agreement, collective bargaining, conciliation, arbitration, or otherwise, and no decreases in wage rates, shall be authorized unless notice of such increases or decreases shall have been filed with the National War Labor Board, and unless the National War Labor Board has approved such increases or decreases.
There was one loophole in the Stabilization Act, though. It allowed for “insurance and pension benefits” to grow “in a reasonable amount” during the freeze. Since employers could not offer higher wages and salaries to lure workers (and many women) into their companies, the employers offered health insurance as a very sweet benefit. The idea caught on quickly and soon, there was employer-based health insurance from sea to shining sea. Oddly, we are still seeing health insurance being provided in lieu of actual income (see the previous example of raises being used to pay for raising premiums). In the 1940’s employers used health insurance to sweeten the pot because they couldn’t raise wages and now wages are being suppressed because of the health insurance. Oops. I doubt they anticipated the “benefit” becoming a wage “curse”.
2. Health Coverage Costs Fluctuate Wildly When You Change Employers
As we grow in our education, experience, and skills, most of us prefer to advance our careers, whether it would be for higher pay, shortened commute, better location, more challenges, or some other benefit. Very few people would say that they want their first job to be the job they work until retirement. In our effort to advance our paychecks and careers, we often are faced with changing employers (or even leaving employment behind to start our own businesses). However, when we change employers, everything about our health care also changes. First, even if we end up with the same health insurance company, the plan will often be very different concerning copays, coinsurance amounts, deductibles, what’s covered, etc. We definitely will have a new insurance card and policy number. But, that is not all that changes.
When you change employers, your portion of your insurance premium will most likely change. And this is not always a negligible change (from $400 to $450 per month). Often, it can vary wildly, especially if you are leaving a large corporation to work for a smaller, growing company. You could see your $400 per month premium skyrocket to $1400 per month with the company that’s will to give you a $7,000 per year raise but can’t afford to subsidize the health insurance premiums. That’s an additional $1,000 out of your checks each month, or $12,000 per year! Even with the raise, you will see $5,000 per year less! Yikes!
Even in the best of scenarios, where there isn’t much of a change in your health insurance nor the cost to you, there is still a massive problem that may hinder you from taking that fabulous new job – a gap in coverage.
3. Gaps in Coverage When You Change Employers
Typically, when you leave a job, the coverage you had through that employer continues through the last day of the month you quit. So, if you quit on March 1st, you still have coverage through March 31st. But, if you quit on March 29th, you only have coverage for 2 more days (March 31st). However, most employers require a 90 day probationary period before your coverage kicks in. This means that you could have no coverage for 60 – 90 days, even if you didn’t have a break in employment (started new job the day after your last day at the old job). Now, if you have a spouse and/or children, how eager are you to have your family go without insurance for 60 – 90 days, just to change jobs?
For most families, any one of these problems could be a deal breaker when considering changing employers. This prevents many workers from advancing their careers. Americans are being held back from reaching their full potential when there are barriers to changing jobs, such as raising premiums, drastically fluctuating premiums, and gaps in coverage.
4. Job Change = HealthCare Change / Lack of Portability
With health care being attached to the company or employer, when the employee changes employers, that employee will have a different health plan with the new employer than he or she had with the old employer. You get new insurance cards, new policy numbers, new doctors, new pharmacies, new hospitals, new specialists, and new coverage levels (coinsurance amounts, copays, deductibles, maximum out of pocket amounts, etc). When a patient finds a doctor that he or she likes, that patient wants to continue with that doctor and not be forced to change doctors. We are typically resistant to change, so changing everything about out healthcare every time you change your employer makes it more difficult for people to make positive change in their employment.
The Insurance Model
1. Insurance for Every Medical Issue, Whether Big or Small
After spending nearly a decade in the medical insurance business, I saw the transition from Indemnity plans to HMO and PPO plans. Indemnity plans were the original type of healthcare plans where you pay a premium each month, then when you obtain medical services, you present your insurance card and pay a coinsurance (typically 10%, 15%, 20%, or 25%). The insurance company was responsible for the rest of the bill (less the amount beyond “usual and customary”, which the provider had to “write off” or forgive). Since the patient has to pay a percentage of the cost, people would only go to the doctor when absolutely necessary.
HMOs, or Health Maintenance Organizations, became popular because they targeted routine care, check-ups, immunizations, and other services that helped to prevent illness and injury. The key was “preventive medicine”. Of course, prevention is the best solution to any health issue. However, this was abused. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, it was common for people to go to the doctor for everything. Antibiotics were prescribed for almost everything. This led to the antibiotics taking the place of the body’s natural immune system. People were becoming less capable of fighting illnesses without the use of antibiotics. This resulted in bacteria and viruses mutating into “superbugs”. Stronger antibiotics were needed and eventually developed. In the 21st century, doctors began reducing the amount of antibiotics they prescribed, acknowledging that antibiotics had been overprescribed, suppressed the body’s natural immune system, and contributed to the mutation of “superbugs”.
2. Wasteful Abuse and Hidden Costs
While the overuse of antibiotics has had a negative impact on society, the cost of health care skyrocketed. With people running to their family physician for every sniffle and cough, the demand for more health care providers climbed. The demand was so high, that providers could increase what they charged and still be secure in the fact that people wouldn’t be swayed by the higher costs. After all, the patient was paying the nominal copay of $10, $15, $20, or the like, regardless of what the provider charged. There are no incentives for the patient to be frugal in his or her use of health care. Quite the contrary. If you pay $200 per month in premiums for a health care plan, you will want to get your money’s worth out of that plan. In you don’t go to the doctor at all that month, you just wasted that $200 in premiums. But, if you go 2 or 3 times that month, you have actually saved a lot of money and the cost of the premium was worth it. So, the consumer is actually encouraged to overuse health care, even when it is not necessary.
We have all heard doctors say that the best thing for treating a cold is water, rest, and time. Medication may or may not speed up recovery. Going to the doctor for a cold usually results in that very advice, no prescription, and no shot. But, your insurance company may have to fork over $200+ for you to be told to go home, rest, and drink lots of fluids. Was that worth $200? Can you see how the cost of health care has been driven by wasteful spending on unnecessary care? You may not see the impact of health care costs, because you are only charged that nominal copay, but you will eventually see it in higher premiums.
Most of the time, the patient is not informed of the actual cost that will be charged to the insurance company. Does the patient have a fiduciary duty to the insurance company to go to a reasonably priced provider? No. The patient is not even thinking about the cost, other than the cost of the copay.
The insurance company was the one being targeted. However, the insurance companies would just raise their premium rates, resulting in the consumers and their employers paying more for the insurance. At first, this did not seem excessive. But over time, it has grown into a crisis. This is a recipe for disaster.
Let’s take the health care insurance model and apply it to auto insurance. What would happen if auto insurance started covering “preventive” care? Let’s imagine that auto insurance covers tune-ups, oil changes, tire rotations, replacement batteries, replacement tires, and gasoline. You pay $150 per month for the insurance and every time you get gas, you swipe your auto insurance card and then pay $5. Would you only put $10 - $20 of gas in your tank at a time? Of course not! That would be stupid. You would run your vehicle as close to empty as possible, get $60 worth of gas and pay only your $5 copay, right? The most bang for your buck. You would take your vehicle in for tune-ups, oil changes, and tire rotation more frequently, even when it really didn’t need it. The gas stations wouldn’t compete for businesses by keeping prices down. They would continuously increase the cost per gallon. Soon, gas would be $10 per gallon or more. Eventually, the auto insurance company would have no choice but to raise rates. Eventually, we would all be paying $800 per month or more in auto insurance. It would be too expensive for most people and if it continued long enough, people would quit buying auto insurance, putting them at severe risk if something catastrophic happened, like a bad car accident.
This example may seem ridiculous. But, that is precisely what we have done with health care. When you provide a middle man between the consumer and the provider, the cost becomes irrelevant to the consumer and the provider. The consumer abuses the services. The provider over inflates the costs. The middle man will never be able to control the costs without sacrificing service to the consumer. When we take out the middle man, the consumer and the provider can negotiate a cost reasonable to both of them. That is how the free market system works. It lowers prices to what consumers and providers consider “fair” or the “fair market value”.
Now, we see health care costs out of control and very few can afford health insurance. In our effort to provide preventive health care and increase the consumers’ quality of life, we ended up making health care unaffordable and unattainable for most Americans. It’s not too late to reverse this course though. We can provide preventive care while controlling costs. It just takes creativity and ingenuity.
3. Retail Medical Care = Inflated Costs
The insurance company is acting as the “middle man” in this process. We pay the insurance company through monthly premiums and the insurance company pays the provider for the services rendered. Of course, the insurance company has to pay for their employees to process (pay or deny) the claims and the customer service agents to take phone calls from patients and providers to check on benefits, coverage, eligibility, and explanations of how a claim was paid or denied. The insurance company also has to pay the managers of those employees and for all the building and operation expenses, so the insurance company has to make more than it pays out. This comes from us, the patients.
To put this in perspective, the insurance company is like a retail store who buys t-shirts from a supplier, or maker. The maker may buy the materials for $2, make the shirt, and charge the retailer $3 for the t-shirt. The added cost is for the time the maker spends turning the fabric into a shirt. That retailer then sells the shirt to you, but for more than the $3 they paid for it because they have to pay their cashiers, stockers, managers, and building expenses to be open for you to come in and buy that t-shirt. You pay $5 for a shirt that would have cost you only $3 if you purchased directly from the maker, or $2 if you made it yourself.
The insurance company is the middle man, or retailer, in the health care industry. By having a middle man, the cost of health care is inflated. To combat this issue, we need a more direct method to limit the middle man and to help drive the cost of health care down to a reasonable level.
4. Limited Care
When you sign up for a health insurance plan (through your employer, self-insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare), you have a set of “preferred providers” or “contracted providers” to choose from. There may be 50 MDs in your town, but only a dozen or so are “contracted providers” with your particular health insurance company. Since you are already paying the premiums for the insurance, you are highly incentivized to choose from that limited list. There are no guarantees that those doctors “contracted” with your health insurance are the best doctors. There are also no guarantees that those doctors charge the most reasonable rates. This leads to you passing up doctors that may provide a substantially higher level of care for a cheaper price, and you end up with a mediocre doctor that charges outrageous prices. How is that better for the patient? Furthermore, why aren’t we rewarding the best doctors with our business?
The insurance model of care is limiting your choices and we, as Americans, love choices and hate having limits on our healthcare options. The insurance model hinders freedom in healthcare. It forces you to choose from a small pool of providers.
Furthermore, we are paying someone else (insurance company) to tell us what types of procedures we can and cannot have. Most of us would prefer to pay for more choices. It seems rather ridiculous to pay someone to dictate how you can spend your health care dollars. Would this work in any other aspect of our lives?
Would you pay me $600 per month for me to dictate what foods for which I will reimburse you? That is ludicrous! Yet, we do that every time we pay health insurance premiums and are told what products and services they will “cover” with that money YOU gave them.
5. Lack of Coverage for Others
For years there has been a debate over how long a child can be covered on his or her parents’ health insurance plan. It used to be up to age 18. Then, it moved to 21 as long as the adult child was still in school and/or dependent. Under ObamaCare, it moved to age 26. But this completely ignores other situations and relationships beyond the parent/child relationship.
A prime example is if your parents have bad insurance or no insurance, you cannot cover them on your insurance. In other words, you cannot use your health care dollars to help out your parents. What if your parents need medication that is not covered on his or her health plan? Why shouldn’t you be able to access your health plan (which you paid for with your money) to assist your parents? Under our current system, that isn’t even an option. You either have to pay with cash, or your parents have to go without.
What if you wanted to help out a friend with his or her prescription cost? You do not have the option of helping others out, even if you have far superior coverage than they do. We need to be able to have a plan that allows us to use our health care dollars for the loved ones we wish to help.
With our current system, each adult or couple is autonomous from all others. There’s no sense of community in our current health care model.
And why are we arbitrarily picking the age 26. For some families, the adult child who is 22, is already married and has a child of his or her own. For other families, the 29 year old adult child may be disabled enough to still be dependent on the parents. We need more flexibility that makes it possible for each family to determine what is best for their particular family, without arbitrary numbers that are meant to make everyone the same. We need healthcare that is as diverse as the American family.
6. Delay in Payment for Providers
When a patient goes to a doctor for care, the doctor performs services for the patient on that day, only getting the copay from the patient on that day. Then the doctor has to submit a claim for payment to the patient’s insurance company. The insurance company has a time frame to process (pay or deny) that claim. The doctor will not get paid for that service for at least 2 – 6 months. There are very few industries where this “delayed payment” occurs. If you ran a business, you would want payment up front before you render services. Think about McDonald’s. They will not even entertain the ridiculous notion of giving you food for a promise of payment months into the future. Yet, we expect our doctors to wait for payment. This is unfair to the providers who had to pay a lot of money for specialized education and training so that they could provide those services. We need a system that pays providers at the time of service, rather than payment being delayed for months at a time.
7. Providers Need More Staff
Since providers need to submit “claims” to insurance companies to get reimbursement for products and services rendered, the provider often has to employ a full time person just to handle all that additional paperwork. These people are called medical billing specialists, with medical coding training. The provider, or doctor, needs to pay that person, which means the doctor has to charge more for his or her services to cover that additional employee.
When a person is approved for Medicaid, due to having a low income, Medicaid provides the covered person with a “medical card”, similar to an insurance card received when you sign up for any other insurance. The problem is that it clearly states “Medicaid”, or the specific Medicaid program name, on the card itself. This is highly problematic because when the Medicaid recipient presents the “Medicaid” card to a provider, the provider immediately knows that the patient is a Medicaid recipient and therefore, poor. The provider often treats Medicaid patients different than patients with some other form of insurance. The providers sometimes treat the Medicaid patient as “less important” than other patients. This is a form of discrimination, and it is often difficult to prove.
2. Fraud, Waste, and Abuse
Just as with the employer-sponsored health care, people do not exercise frugality when someone else is picking up the tab. This leads to needless office visits, prescriptions, and tests. The patient isn’t thinking about the taxpayers that will have to pay for these unnecessary services. When we are spending someone else’s money, we tend to be more extravagant and less frugal. This leads to fraud, waste, and abuse.
In March 2018, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General provided its report “Medicaid Fraud Control Units Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report”. In it, they report that there were $1.8 Billion recovered for Medicaid Fraud. This is just the amount recovered. The actual amount is more likely much higher. Even if that amount was the total amount of fraud, that’s $1.8 Billion of your tax money being wasted on fraudulent claims. That’s not a nominal amount.
3. Limited Providers
There are many providers that refuse to take Medicaid recipients. This narrows the list of providers for the patient to choose from and this limits the patients’ choice of providers. Everyone, regardless of their employment status or economic status, should have access to all available providers. The limited amount of providers often results in Medicaid patients only having access to subpar providers. Many of the top doctors and facilities do not accept Medicaid patients, which leads to further discrimination.
4. Higher Costs for More Restricted Care
One of the worst things we can ever do is throw more money at healthcare while we continue to receive further and further limitations being imposed. Why pay more for less coverage? The American spirit is one of frugality. We all want the best for the least cost. Currently, we are receiving fewer and fewer options as our costs continue to rise. That is backwards. Certainly, we can provide much better options at reduced costs.
- Double Charging for Premiums
People work for decades, with a portion of their paychecks going to fund Medicare. You pay into Medicare for decades, but once you sign up for Social Security and start receiving Social Security, they take out your “portion” of your “premium” for the Medicare. How is it you have been paying these “premiums” for decades and still have to pay for it when you are retired and on a fixed income. This is a form of double paying. By the time a person reaches retirement and Social Security age, their Medicare premiums should be considered paid in full. This is akin to charging the elderly for something they already paid for.
Our own government claims that Medicare is not sustainable as it is. “The estimated depletion date for the HI [hospital insurance (Medicare Part A)] trust fund is 2026, 3 years earlier than in last year’s report.” We keep having problems with the sustainability of Medicare, especially with a growing need for Medicare. As medical advancements as made, our elderly are living longer lives, translating into more years spent on Medicare. We need to ensure Medicare is sustainable for all of our elderly from retirement to death, regardless of whether that is 2 years or more than 40 years.
We need to torpedo the health care industry (cabal) in American and rebuild it into a truly American system of health care. We can do this. As Americans, our ability to think, and dream, of ideas no one else has ever dared to think or dream up, is infinite. We can come up with a health care system that benefits employers, employees, patients, and providers. We can invent a health care system that provides preventive medicine while preventing abuse. We can balance the interests of everyone, while allowing everyone to contribute to the determination of health care costs. We can have a system that allows the free market system to bring costs to a market sustainable level (not too high, not too low). We can make everyone happy and healthy. We can take care of our poor, disabled, and elderly, while reducing costs for everyone and increasing quality. That is the American way – best in the world and at the most reasonable price! Let’s solve this problem together!
 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), Health Insurance Coverage of the Total Population (2017), https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/total-population/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D, Accessed January 12, 2018.
 United States Census Bureau, Barnett, Jessica C. & Vornovitsky, Marina S., Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015, Issued September 2016, https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-257.pdf, page 1 (page 7 if opened in PDF), third bullet point that starts “In 2015, private health insurance…”, Accessed January 12, 2018.
 The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/family-coverage/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D, Accessed January 12, 2018.
 Avalere, Pearson, Caroline F., Carpenter, Elizabeth, and Sloan, Chris, Silver Exchange Premiums Rise 34% on Average in 2018, October 25, 2017, http://avalere.com/expertise/managed-care/insights/silver-exchange-premiums-rise-34-on-average-in-2018, Accessed January 12, 2018.
 Chicago Tribune, Mihm, Stephen, Employer-Based Health Care Was a Wartime Accident, February 24, 2017, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-obamacare-health-care-employers-20170224-story.html, Accessed January 12, 2018
 The American Presidency Project, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Executive Order 9250 Establishing the Office of Economic Stabilization, October 3, 1942, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/executive-order-9250-establishing-the-office-economic-stabilization, Accessed August, 11, 2018.
 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Murrin, Suzanne, Deputy Inspector General, Medicaid Fraud Control Units Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report, March 2018, OEI-09-18-00180, https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-09-18-00180.pdf, accessed October 7, 2018.
 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Mnuchin, Steven T. (Secretary of the Treasury), Acosta, R. Alexander (Secretary of Labor), Azar II, Alex M. (Secretary of Health and Human Services), Berryhill, Nancy A. (Acting Commissioner of Social Security), and Verma, MPH, Seema (Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), transmitted on Jun 5, 2018, 2018 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Insurance and Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds, https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/ReportsTrustFunds/Downloads/TR2018.pdf, page 7 (page 13 if downloaded in PDF).
The Bible and Public School
Christianity and The Bible played a fundamental role in United States education until the early 1900s. It was part of the fabric of education, childhood, adult life, and government. Before we dive into the arguments for and against the Bible being taught in public schools, let’s look at the numbers.
The vast majority of Americans claim to be Christian. How big of a majority do Christians have in the United States? According to PBS, it’s nearly 70%, in September 2017.
According to The Pew Research Center, 46% of Americans are some form Protestant, 21% are Catholic, 2% are Mormon, and 2% are Other Christian. This comes to 71% of Americans. However, there are two other groups to add in with the Christians. The Old Testament of the Christian Bible is part of the sacred texts for Jewish people, who make up 2% of the American population.
The other religion that is very closely aligned with Christianity is Islam. Islam has more than one sacred text and significant portions of the Bible, namely the first Five books of the Old Testament and the first Four books of the New Testament. Therefore, study of the Bible, or at least portions of the Bible are common among the three major religions in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, Muslims make up 1% of Americans. When you add this to the Christians and Jews, you have 74% of Americans belong to a religion that hold the Bible, or parts of the Bible, as being part of their sacred texts.
With this overwhelming majority of Americans viewing the Bible as sacred, why can’t we teach it in public schools? Teaching the Bible does not establish a national religion because The Bible encompasses three different religions. And there are variations within each of those religions.
Also, I find it odd that with 74% of Americans believing in the Bible, or part of it, that parents who want some kind of religious education are forced to have to pay for private education. Instead, it should be the other way around. Since the majority of Americans belong to one of those three faiths, then teaching the Bible in public school would be in line with the majority of students. However, if a parent does not want his or her child to receive a Biblical education, that parent should be the one to pay for private, secular education. Public school should provide the most benefit to the vast majority of American families, not cater to the minority voices in the American landscape.
“Separation of Church and State”
Now, we can certainly get into a “separation of church and state” debate, but that would be futile, not for the 74% of Bible believing Americans, but for the secularists. Teaching the Bible does not establish a national religion, because of its uniformity among three very different religions. To determine if America is establishing a national religion, you have to define which religion it is “establishing”. With three major religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) being represented by the study of the Bible (or parts thereof), no one can definitively claim the “establishment” of any one of those three.
Although the phrase “separation of church and state” is part of the modern American lexicon, it is NOT a phrase in the United States Constitution. However, the United States Constitution does state, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” in the First Amendment. Most people get hung up by the “establishment of religion” part and forget about the “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” part. Congress is NOT allowed to prohibit the expression of religion. Therefore, Congress cannot suppress religion from the public arena.
Additionally, it is easy to dispute the argument that teaching the Bible is public school is forcing religion on the students. It astounds me that more people are not disputing this! As science has gotten better at conducting more sensitive experiments and people have been able to conduct more and more archeological research, the Bible is being proven right on historical accounts and science. An interesting read is “101 Scientific Facts & Foreknowledge” . Even if you dispute the authenticity of the Bible, no one can dispute that the Bible is one of the greatest literary works ever created.
The Bible as Great Literature
If we are teaching fictional stories such as “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Catcher in the Rye”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Wuthering Heights”, “Moby-Dick”, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”, “Charlotte’s Web”, and much more, why would we not teach the greatest literature work of all time – the Bible. The Bible has every aspect of great literature. Even if you do not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of a single Creator, you cannot dispute the beauty in its poetry and songs, the lessons in the various parables, the manual for peaceful personal relationships, the great adventures described, and even the great miracles which are detailed in the Bible. We let children read about talking pigs and wizard schools, but go bonkers at the mere mention that there may have been a great flood that covered the whole Earth.
Even the most aggressive atheist has to admit that the quality of literature contained in the Bible is remarkable; rivaling any other great work of fiction. So, either you believe, as 74% of Americans believe, that the Bible is divinely inspired by our Creator, or you believe that it is one of the greatest works of fiction. Either way, it has great value in the classroom.
Morality and Life Lessons
Even if you do not believe that the Bible is divinely inspired, you cannot dispute that the Bible is a great guide to human life. It provides us with the greatest rules for moral and peaceful living. It talks about how to live, how to conduct business, how courts should function, how men and women should treat each other with respect, how parents and children should treat each other, how to keep our bodies healthy, and so much more.
We often say that babies do not come with instruction manuals. But, the Bible makes a great instruction manual for peaceful human life. It is in the Bible that we were first introduced to the concepts of freedom, liberty, and justice. Many of our laws come directly from the Bible. In Proverbs 22:22, we are told, “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court.” This sounds a lot like our Miranda Warnings that are given during an arrest (“You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you.”). That is only one tiny example of our laws mimicking the Bible’s laws and rules. There are so many more.
We want our children to respect authority. The Bible is full of lessons that teach that. However, respecting authority does not mean always obeying without question. Obviously, there are limits to obeying authority. But, we must always respect authority. That may seem like an oxymoron, but it is not. Respect does not mean obey. I can respect my parents’ opinion, even if I decide not to take their advice or direction. You may disagree with my opinion, but as long as you allow me to voice that opinion and you speak to me calmly, you are respecting me. The Bible teaches respect for others and how we can show respect to others. Conflict arises when respect is lost. The Bible shows us how to respect each other and live together peacefully.
Teaching the Bible in public schools has a great value to society. With a super majority of Americans believing that the Bible is Divinely inspired by our Creator, coupled with the fact that the Bible is a collection of great literature, and the lessons it contains for morality and peaceful coexistence with our fellow humans, it is nearly impossible to dispute the value the Bible has in society and in the hearts and minds of our children. Our children need this guiding tool to help them navigate this world, which is often fraught with complications and confusion. The basic principles taught throughout the Bible are the best guidance, for human life, ever written. We would be remiss to deny our children this great book in the course of their education.
 Public Broadcasting Station (PBS), Zoll, Rachel (Associated Pres), White Christians Are Now a Minority of the U.S. Population, Survey Says, September 6, 2017, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/white-christians-now-minority-u-s-population-survey-says, retrieved May 5, 2018.
 Pew Research Center, Alper, Becka & Sandstrom, Aleksandra, If the U.S. had 100 People: Charting Americans’ Religious Affiliations, November 14, 2016, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/14/if-the-u-s-had-100-people-charting-americans-religious-affiliations/, retrieved May 5, 2018.
 The International Bible Society, Do Jews and Christians Have the Same Religion?, https://www.biblica.com/resources/bible-faqs/do-jews-and-christians-basically-have-the-same-religion/, retrieved May 5, 2018.
 Talk to Islam, Do Muslims Believe in the Bible?, http://talktoislam.com/39/do-muslims-believe-in-the-bible, retrieved May 5, 2018.
 Eternal Productions, 101 Scientific Facts & Foreknowledge, http://www.eternal-productions.org/101science.html, citing multiple sources including John Hopkins Institute and Pacific Health Center, retrieved May 6, 2018.
There are many different ideas on how to maintain a healthy diet. After consulting many of the leading research out there, I am convinced that we need to rethink how we view food. A number of the past nutritional guidelines have proven to be detrimental. For instance, I was raised with the “food Pyramid” that looked like this:
As you can see, this shows that the bulk of our nutrition should come from the “Bread, Cereal, Rice, & Pasta Group”. We now know that this group is loaded with carbohydrates. Although carbohydrates give us energy, it can be detrimental if we do not burn off that energy. If you are working a labor intensive job, like construction or farming, this would be great. But, as we have moved to a more service-centered nation, we are spending more time at desks and less time doing labor intensive tasks. This leads to weight gain and obesity, which has become an epidemic in our nation.
This model was also based on 3 large meals a day. Diseases, like diabetes, are on the rise and affect a growing number of Americans each year. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes “kills more Americans each year than AIDS and breast cancer combined” (http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/infographics/fcf-001-the-diabetes-epidemic.html, retrieved 5/23/2018). The statistics are astounding! The latest data is from 2015. Here are just a few quotes from the American Diabetes Association (http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/, retrieved 5/23/2018):
- “In 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, had diabetes.”
- “5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.”
- “In 2015, 84.1 million Americans age 18 and older had ”
“The rates of diagnosed diabetes in adults by race / ethnic background are:
- 4% of non-Hispanic whites
- 0% of Asian Americans
- 1% of Hispanics
- 7% of non-Hispanic blacks
- 1% of American Indians/Alaskan Natives”
These numbers are almost identical to the 2016 statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC states “More than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, and 86 million are living with prediabetes, a serious health condition that increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.” (https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/diabetes.htm, retrieved 5/23/2018).
The scariest part of this epidemic is that the CDC claims that “without major changes, as many as 1 in 3 U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050.” (CDC, Number of Americans with Diabetes Projected to Double or Triple by 2050, https://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2010/r101022.html, retrieved 1/26/2019). As if the complications of diabetes weren’t enough, there are the financial costs. “Care for people with diagnosed diabetes accounts for 1 in 4 health care dollars in the U.S.” (US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, American Diabetes Association, Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29567642, retrieved 1/26/2019). That is way too much time, energy, money, and especially emotional cost for a disease that can be prevented.
These are staggering number by anyone’s standards, especially when we know that Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through diet and exercise. As a person with a number of diabetics in my family, I have spoken with a number of nutritionists and medical professionals. Every one of them has advised eating 6 smaller meals each day, about every 3 hours. This has been explained to me as a way to maintain glycemic levels at a more constant level throughout the day to prevent sharp increases following a large meal, then followed by a sharp crash hours after that meal.
If adults with diabetes should eat 6 small meals a day, shouldn’t we teach that to our children? Maybe we can stop the spread of this epidemic of diabetes into our next generation. Wouldn’t it be nice if our children grew up without the threat of diabetes, heart disease, blindness, and amputations? Wouldn’t it be great if our children could benefit from our current knowledge of this disease and they did not have to tackle this epidemic?
That is why I believe that we change tomorrow by changing what we teach children about health and nutrition today. This needs to start in kindergarten. It would make meal times simpler to deal with.
According to my plan for an overhaul of our primary and secondary education system, detailed in Educating For Success, our schools would typically be open from 6am to 8pm. Meals would start at 8am and a typical school day would have meals at 8am, 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm, and 6pm. The children would not be there for that entire time. But the child would get at least 3 – 4 meals during the time he or she is in school for that day.
Many would say that this would be extremely expensive. On the contrary, it would be very economical because of the manner in which these “meals” would occur. We have to rethink what constitutes a “meal”. A meal does not need to be an entrée, 3 sides, and milk. A meal can be ½ cup of yogurt and 1 TBSP of granola. Take a typical school lunch menu for one day. They may provide cold cereal, graham crackers, craisins, juice, and milk for the breakfast and chicken nuggets, potato rounds, baked beans, juice, 2 condiments, and milk for lunch. Let’s divide these same items up and provide them throughout the day. It would look like this:
8am cold cereal and milk
10 am graham crackers and juice
Noon chicken nuggets and potato rounds, with milk
2pm baked beans and juice
4pm craisins and water
6pm chicken nuggets and potato rounds, with milk
We will not be starving our children for 4 hours, then feed them a big meal that will make them sleepy during the afternoon classes. Instead we will be providing smaller amounts of nutritious food to stave off hunger, yet not stuff our children into sleepy zombie mode. Yeah, laugh at the “sleepy zombie mode”, but you know exactly what I am talking about. When you eat so much that you just want a nap and have problems concentrating because you are so sleepy.
We can provide smaller nuggets of nutrition more often throughout the day, teaching our children that “meals” are not meant to be feasts, but are designed to fuel us for the following 2 – 3 hours. This is an incredibly healthy routine to get our children into. Even when they move from school into the workplace, they will be able to continue this practice because most jobs allow employees to have a snack at their desks. Remember these are not time consuming “meals”. These are quick and easy refueling moments.
In the new and improved Every Child Succeeds classroom, this works out even better. As I described in that plan, there would be approximately 50 – 60 students per double-sized classroom, with approximately 3 supervisors (teachers). However, the students are there during different, flexible times and the supervisors have staggered shifts. About 5 minutes before the “meal” time, a supervisor assigns 2 students to go to the kitchen to get the “meal” and dishes. The two students come back with a cart that has bowls, spoons, glasses, industrial sized containers of cereal, an industrial size milk dispenser, and a tub for the “served, but uneaten” leftovers.
The children would line up, grab a bowl, dispense one serving of cereal, grab a spoon, and get one glass (filled with milk by the supervisor), and head back to his or her seat. After about 10 minutes after the last child sat down, the supervisor advises the students to bring their dishes back to the center table, where the supervisors and older students take the dishes and stack them in the “dirty” bins. Then 2 students are chosen to return the cart(s) back to the kitchen.
The process would repeat about 2 hours later, except there would be 2 different student helpers and they would be bringing small plates, glasses, graham crackers, a juice dispenser, and a tub for “dirty dishes”. In a class of 60 students, 6 meals per day (30 per week), each student would be a helper to get the meal cart and to return the meal cart at least once a week. Remembering how things were when I was in school, the students would be excited to be honored with this type of chore because they get to see the “magic” of the kitchen, receive “please” and “thank you” pleasantries from their peers, and be able to contribute to the school community. Children typically love helping, as long as we give them the opportunity to prove they are no longer babies.
These Healthy Children meals teach our children healthier eating habits and remind them that mealtime is a time to commune with those around you, to serve and be served, to exchange pleasantries, and promote community cohesiveness. By working together to clean up, we teach them that we all win when we take turns serving each other, rather than serving only ourselves.
Healthy Children meals teach our children about proper portion size, diversity in meals, and community service. Not only would we be using meal times to provide nutrition for their bodies, but also nutrition for their minds, hearts, and souls.
Educating for Success
We all know the plethora of arguments regarding education in the United States. Whether we are debating curriculum, teacher salaries, teacher quality, school safety, gun violence, school lunches, extracurricular activities, or some other issue, we all agree on one thing – our education system is broken and millions of children are being left behind.
We need to fix this broken system. But how can we fix it? I have stumbled upon one of the greatest secrets to great education. Let me explain my story. When my oldest child was 3 years, 6 months old, I took her to be tested for Preschool. This was in March. The results of the testing were that she was “ready for kindergarten”. I was a little proud of my smart little girl. So, I asked the next natural question, “When are the registration dates to get her enrolled for kindergarten this fall?” The answer floored me! I was told that she could not enroll in kindergarten until the fall of the FOLLOWING year. The reason was because she would only be 4 years old that fall and she can’t start kindergarten until she is five years old.
How stupid was that?! I was not going to let my child remain stagnant for 18 months. I got a homeschool preschool curriculum and began homeschooling my daughter. Since we were living on one income, the cost of the curriculum became too expensive when we were ready for kindergarten, so I built my own curriculum using workbooks and textbooks.
That worked fine for a couple of years, but as my oldest was racing towards third grade, I started looking for more textbooks for her grade level. That’s when I stumbled across a curriculum that completely changed the way I viewed education and the role of the teacher.
It was from a company called A.C.E. (Accelerated Christian Education). Yes, it was a Christian-based education, but it utilized a completely different model of education, one that could be used even with a secular education. You have seven subjects: Math, English, Literature & Creative Writing, Word Building (spelling and vocabulary), Science, Social Studies, and Bible Reading. Each subject is divided up into 12 mini books, called PACEs (Packet of Accelerated Christian Education).
To understand how it works, let’s take one subject, such as Science, and one grade level, such as second grade. Those Science PACEs would be numbered 1013 – 1024. The Science 1013 would have approximately 40 pages. The student begins the PACE on page 1, which has goals listed, as well as some reference material (phonetic list, memory verse, etc.). On page 2, the student is introduced to new words. The next page will be material that the child reads, followed by questions regarding the material he or she just read. This is repeated through the PACE – read, answer questions, read, answer questions, and so on. After about eight pages, there is a “checkup” that serves as a review.
Periodically (every 1 – 5 pages), there is a reminder to “score” the pages you have completed. “Scoring” means grading the work. The child takes the PACE to the “scoring” section of the room, finds the appropriate score key and checks his or her work. The incorrect answers are marked wrong. Then the child goes back to his or her seat and reworks the incorrect questions or problems, then scores the material again. The child is not done with the assignment in that subject for that day until the assigned pages are all correct. This provides the child with the reinforcement needed on questions or problems that he or she initially found difficult.
After the last “checkup”, there is a Self-Test that covers all of the material in that particular PACE. Prior to taking the Self-Test, the student is encouraged to review the “check-ups” throughout the book (often 3 “check-ups”) before taking the Self-Test. It is NOT an open book test, but the child must get at least an 90% on the Self-Test to be able to take the TEST. The Self-Test must be corrected and studied prior to taking the TEST. The final TEST for that PACE is NOT open book and it is NOT timed. We are more concerned with doing things correctly than with racing through the task. There will be plenty of time later in life to develop speediness. During childhood, it is better to emphasize doing the task correctly.
There are two possible outcomes with the TEST. If the child does NOT score at least 80% or higher, the child will repeat that PACE (Science 1013), which is only the equivalent of two or three weeks of work. This is repeated until the child achieves at least an 80% on the TEST for that PACE. Once the child gets 80% or higher on Science 1013, the child moves on to Science 1014, and the process is repeated. However, only the passing grade is recorded. The previous attempts merely constitute as “practice”.
The beauty of this is that the child advances ONLY when he or she has mastered the previous material. The child is not pushed on to the next “grade” before he or she is ready. Another beautiful aspect is that the child can advance more quickly in subjects that he or she excels in, but take extra time in the subjects he or she struggles with. So, a child may be in Science 1030, Math 1034, English 1028, Literature & Creative Writing 1027, Social Studies 1033, and so on. This allows for individualized advancement through the subjects, based on each child’s individual abilities.
By utilizing the A.C.E. education model, we can provide every student in the United States with individualized curriculum and make it virtually impossible for a child to “flunk” or “get held back”. Under this model, the student progresses at his or her own pace, rather than advancing or not advancing as a group (class).
The Role of the Teacher
This education method has the child studying on his or her own, learning on his or her own, and taking ownership of his or her education. The “teacher” is not really teaching, but rather a facilitator, or supervisor. The teacher is there to answer questions when the student is having difficulty finding the answer. However, the teacher still does not help the student with the answer, even when the child is struggling. Instead the teacher first asks the student if he or she read the material on that page or the previous page (whichever is relevant), asks the student if he or she read the question fully, reminds the student to look for key words or phrases from the question, and then looking for those key words in the reading material. The teacher is not helping, but rather guiding the student on how to locate the answer. This builds independence and the ability to research to find answers.
This is a skill that the student will need throughout life. We are doing our students a severe disservice when we spoon-feed information to them. The best key we can give our children is the ability to seek out answers, where to look, how to research, etc. We need to give the gift of independence. After all, the goal of raising children and teaching children is for those children to be strong, intelligent, capable adults one day.
Another great benefit to this model of education is the “goal card”. In first grade, the child is taught how to set goals on his or her goal card. The child will assign his or her own goals, with the supervisor at first. As the child completes the Science pages for that day, the child crosses off the Science goal for that day and sets a new goal for Science for the next day. Again, this teaches the child about goal setting, planning, completing tasks, and accountability. A child on this program will have a lot more confidence in his or her ability to tackle large tasks later in life. He or she will know how to take a large task and divide it up into small, bite-size tasks, then tackle each small task until the whole job is completed.
Now, I did state that this particular curriculum could be used to develop a secular program based on this same model; however, I do not think that needs to be done. I have come to this conclusion for a variety of reasons. First, why reinvent the wheel when there is a perfectly fabulous program already available. Second, Christianity and The Bible played a fundamental role in United States education until the early 1900s. I know the argument of separation of church and state, and that argument can be easily refuted, which I do in my article, “The Bible and Public School”. Here, we are discussing this “model”, not the subject matter.
However, if a school district wants to make sure a secular option is available via the public school system, which can also be arranged. All we need to do is make a duplicate curriculum, but without the Biblical aspects of the A.C.E. Curriculum and replace the Biblical Memory Verses with Famous Quotes for the children to learn. Both the Biblical curriculum and the Secular curriculum can be taught in the same classroom since the children are working independently. The supervisors would just have to make sure that each student receives the correct curriculum type (Biblical or Secular), subject (i.e., Math), and level (i.e., 1042) when the student is ready to move on in a subject.
This allows for the parents to decide what type of education their children will receive without having to incur a higher financial cost simply because the parent made a choice that is different than his or her neighbor. This will also make it possible for families of modest means (poor and middle-class) to provide their children with a Biblical education, if they want. Under the current system, these parents do not have that option because they are limited to secular public schools only because they lack the funds to give their children a private, Biblical education. This system allows parents to decide between Biblical-based education and secular education, regardless of the class status or income of the parents.
With this model, we can implement additional measures that greatly benefit the students, teachers, and parents. The students would enter the public school system whenever they are ready based on a simple skill set. Before a child can enter the public school system, the child should be potty-trained and be able to recognize 1) primary and secondary colors (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and purple), as well as black and white, 2) basic shapes (circle, square, triangle, rectangle, star, oval, heart, and diamond), 3) all 26 letters, and 4) the numbers 0 through 9. Some children will be ready to start kindergarten at age three, others may not be ready until age 6 or 7. That’s okay. Children develop at different rates.
The teacher to student ratio would be very low at this stage as it requires much more hands on learning and individual teaching. But by the time the student finishes First Grade, the child is ready for independent study, with the “teacher” acting only as a facilitator or supervisor.
Most children can complete their PACE goals for the day in about 2 – 4 hours. This leaves plenty of time left in the school day for Physical Education, Music, Art, Lunch, Snacks, Recess, Life Skills, and even extracurricular activities.
Instead of softball practice occurring after school, it can be incorporated into the school day. This alleviates the pressures on the student and parents to rush the kids from school to practice. The family unit will have their late afternoons and evenings back. This provides families with more time to spend together, creating those strong familial bonds that we need. It also allows the children the time they need in the late afternoon and evening to play, relax, and enjoy their childhoods.
We often discount play time as a luxury. In the development of a child, it is so much more than that. A child that is spending that play time engrossed in dolls, Barbie’s, playing house, playing doctor, playing with cars and trucks, or simply reading are engaging a part of their brain that activates creativity. We want our children to be creative and grow into creative adults. Advancements in technology and science can only happen when someone dares to dream of something that has not been accomplished, and then follows through with making that dream solution into a reality. To grow as a society, we need creative adults inventing new technologies and making new discoveries in all fields (science, engineering, technology, medicine, philosophy, mathematics, etc.).
When we load up our children’s days with school and extracurricular activities, we limit the time they have to develop their creative minds. In turn, this stunts their growth. We need to give our children their childhood back. Allow for them to have the time and space to use their imaginations. Simply put, let the kids have time to play!
This model also allows for “Life Skills” training to prepare the children for independent life. This could be teaching housekeeping skills (washing dishes, doing laundry, sweeping floors, mopping floors, washing windows, cooking, etc.), financial skills (banking, loans, mortgage, insurance, budgeting, planning, retirement, comparing prices, saving, charitable giving, etc.), interpersonal relationship skills (identifying healthy and unhealthy relationships, dating, marriage, parenting skills, conflict resolution, the art of compromising, the art of effective communication, etc.), woodshop, auto shop, and so on. Of course all of these Life Skills would be offered at age-appropriate levels. Children at the lower “grades” would learn more about housekeeping. But as they get to ages 12 – 14, they start learning about child rearing, dating, retirement, mortgages, woodshop, auto shop, etc.
Wouldn’t it be great if our children graduated from 12th grade with all the skills needed to be independent? Wouldn’t it be great if our children all entered adulthood with the confidence that they can support themselves and take care of themselves? They should know how to set a budget, sew a button back on an item of clothing, make a meal for themselves or a group, keep their homes clean, have healthy relationships, create a resume and cover letter, be professional at work, and have a sense of civic duty to their community. Remember, we are not merely tending to children, but rather raising the adults of tomorrow. We cannot shelter them for 18 – 25 years then release them into the world unprepared. We need to start preparing them at young ages and gradually introduce age-appropriate life skills so they can succeed as adults.
Even at the lower grade levels, the children can learn life skills and how to contribute to the community by starting with the school community. Each classroom can have a couple students assist in the school’s kitchen with minor tasks, including assisting with gathering the dishes needed for their classroom for the “meal”. When the food is ready, the students assist with transporting the food to their classroom via carts. Older students can assist younger students, all with adult supervision. Then after the meal time, a couple other students take the garbage, dishes, and leftover food back to the school’s kitchen. The older students may even be able to help prepare the dishes to be washed or assist with the disposal of the garbage.
At the end of the day, the students can assist with sweeping the classroom floor, cleaning their desks and chairs, wiping windows, or helping the supervisor inventory the supplies to see what supplies need to be ordered. All of these tasks give the children a sense of community and a sense of pride in helping each other.
Early Diagnosis of Problems
My suggestion is that the students stay with the same supervisor/facilitator throughout grades 2 – 12, unless a change is warranted. This gives the supervisor more time with his or her students, allowing them to get to know the students much better. This allows the supervisor to be able to pick up on changes in behavior and performance a lot more quickly and be able to get the child the resources that the child may need.
Imagine a child who is usually very focused and is usually the first one done with his work and is suddenly being the last one done. The supervisor can sit down with the child and see what is going on. Since the student has been with the same supervisor for the past two or three years, the student has come to trust the supervisor and will be much more willing to open up. Whether the problems stems from troubles at home, with peers, abuse, or a physical problem (such as poor eyesight), it can be identified much more quickly and the child could be referred to the proper school, medical, or community resources long before the issue becomes a big problem.
The goal of the supervisor is to guide the student in his or her learning process and to watch out for signs that the child is struggling. This allows the supervisor to refer the student to special services that the child may need. The end goal is that every child is supported and encouraged in the journey of learning. Weaknesses are identified rapidly and resolved before they escalate into big problems.
School Violence & Safety
One thing that is plaguing our schools in the 21st Century is school violence. This model of education aids in solving that problem in a number of ways. We can identify children with problems earlier (mentioned above) and we can prepare the classroom of tomorrow so that the children are always safe from an active shooter.
Since the children will be studying all of their subjects in one classroom, there would be less movement of the children from one classroom to another. This cuts down the traffic in the hallways. The classrooms can also the locked during the time that the students are working on their PACES. With the classroom doors locked, an active shooter would be limited in the number of students he or she could access during a shooting spree.
Although I do support teachers being armed, I do believe that it should be limited. With this model of education, we can easily have 3 supervisors in a large classroom of 50 – 60 students. Only one of the supervisors would be need to be licensed for a firearm. However, the other 2 would not need to be licensed. The supervisor with firearms training would not even need to have a firearm on him or her, especially with the classroom door locked. There would be a biometric safe in the classroom, with a firearm and ammo in it. That supervisor’s handprint would be required to open the biometric safe. He or she would be the only one in that classroom that could access the firearm.
If there is an active shooter situation, the firearms licensed supervisor accesses the firearm, loads it, and positions him or herself between the door and the rest of the class. The other two supervisors would corral the students to one side of the classroom and keep the students calm. If the shooter does breach the classroom door, the supervisor with the gun shoots to disarm the shooter, or kill, if needed. Either way, that teacher has the means, training, and will to protect the students.
The reason I think it should be only one supervisor per classroom that is trained is simple. In the heat of the moment, we need a clear distinction who is to guard the door and who corrals and calms the students. We do not need chaos to ensue. This gives an orderly process to the situation.
This helps with the argument that is currently raging about whether teachers should be armed. This allows for the teachers to be unarmed, yet have the access needed if, and when, a situation was to arise. The students would not even be aware which teacher is trained in firearms, nor would they be aware of the location of the biometric safe. All of this, coupled with the locked classroom, allows for the children to safely get an individualized education, have their individual issues identified early and dealt with before they become problems that hinder the child’s education, and provides for the protection of the children in an active shooter situation.
Year Around Education and Attendance
One of the best benefits of this program is that the children do not miss anything when they are sick and unable to attend school. If a child gets the flu and is out of school for a week, that child just picks up where he or she left off in his or her PACEs. The child does not miss lectures or lessons. He or she does not fall behind just because he or she was not at school.
With this program, we can have school all year, with a full week off for holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day and New Year’s. However, the children would be able to have 20 – 25 personal days per calendar year. This allows the families to be able to take vacations whenever they want, not just during the summer months. It does not matter when the child takes time off school; he or she will not miss anything (other than extracurricular activities).
When children have a large break, like three months for summer vacation, they tend to regress a little when they return to school in the fall. Most teachers spend the first month of the new school year reviewing and repeating what had been taught at the end of the previous year. By having school all year, with shorter breaks throughout the year, the students will not regress as much and they will not have to waste a month repeating old material.
This will provide a better school / life / family balance for the students and also better prepare them for the type of schedule they can expect in the workplace later in life. This provides continuity throughout the year, where every child keeps moving forward.
Expanded School Hours
School districts would have to see what works best in their own district, but in general, most schools would be open from 6:00am to 8:00pm. Now, this does not mean the students will be there that whole time. That would be the availability of the school. This means that the parents can have some control over when their children will attend school.
Each classroom would have approximately 50 – 60 students, with 3 supervisors. One supervisor may work 6:00am to 2:00pm. A second supervisor may work 9:00am to 5:00pm. A third supervisor may work noon to 8:00pm. Obviously during the majority of the day (9am – 5pm), there would be at least two supervisors in the room, with all three there during the busiest time of day (noon -2pm). Since the students are working independently, with minimal direction from a supervisor, the student can attend at a time that is best suited for that student and his or her family.
This works out great for working parents who have work schedules that conflict with traditional school hours. Plus, it answers the questions “what do I do with my kids during the summer months?”, “Who can I get to pick up my kids from school at 3pm and babysit until I get home at 5pm?”, and so many more. However, this wouldn’t be a “drop-in” system. The parents and supervisors must have a set schedule for the student.
As an example, let’s take a single mom who works as a waitress. She does not have a set schedule, but she often knows her schedule in advance. So, as soon as she gets her schedule, she informs her child’s supervisor of the upcoming schedule. If the school is 15 minutes from her job, she would want to drop her kid off 30 minutes before. So, her kid’s schedule may be Monday 10am – 5pm, Tuesday 10am – 4pm, Wednesday noon – 8pm, Thursday 9am – 5pm, and Friday 11am – 7pm. That child would spend a total of 37 hours at school and no time with a babysitter. The child will be getting the individualized education he or she needs and the parent gets the flexibility she needs.
This also provides greater flexibility for the teachers/supervisors. The teachers who are early birds can supervise children earlier in the day, yet have their afternoons and evenings to themselves. The “normal business hours” teachers/supervisors get to have their “normal” schedule. The teachers/supervisors get to have their relaxed mornings and work during their prime cognitive hours. And the best part for the teachers/supervisors is that they do not have to create or write lesson plans or grade homework after they leave the school for the day. They won’t have much, if any, outside work to do. It relieves a lot of pressure from the teachers and parents.
So, when will the children complete high school and graduate? That depends on the child. Some children may complete high school around age 13 or 14, others may not graduate until age 18 or 20. Regardless of when the child graduates, the child will be prepared for college or for entering the workforce, with the necessary skills to succeed at either. More advanced children could even take college preparatory classes that could be transferred to college, allowing the students to gain college credits while still in school with their peers.
We have the ability to provide an individualized education for each and every American child. We can advance the children based on their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. We can let our children race through “easy” subjects, while taking extra time on the subjects more challenging for that child. We can provide a system where no child “flunks” or is a “failure”, but where every child succeeds (just at different rates of success).
We can ease the burdens on teachers and parents, while giving children their childhood back, allowing them to sprout wings of creativity. We can provide them with real life skills, giving them the confidence to enter the “real” world with all the tools for success.
With this model, we will be shaping our children into the strong, independent, intelligent, loving, compassionate, creative, and courageous leaders of tomorrow. Isn’t that the future we all want for our children?
Diagnosis of Public Schools
In the state of Illinois, only 37% of our students are meeting or exceeding expectations in English, 34% in math, and 51% in science. Yet, we graduate over 85% of our students. That means we are graduating students that are not even meeting expectations in English and math, the two most integral subjects that will be needed in adult life. This is completely unacceptable.
With IEPs (Individual Education Plans), formerly known as special education, at 14% and chronic absenteeism (defined as missing more than 10% of school days) at 17%, we have a lot of problems that simply are not being addressed under our current system. The results are horrendous. But, what are the root causes of these problems? Before we define those problems, let’s take a look at how Illinois’ 2nd Congressional district measures up. Let’s break it down by the various areas of the district.
Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District:
The amount of students meeting or exceeding expectations are: 29.1% in English, 27.5% in Math, and 42.1% in science. Yet, 93% of 9th graders are supposedly “on track” and 92.1% graduate. Chronic absenteeism plagues 16.2% of students and 14.1% of our students have IEPs.
Will County (Beecher, Crete, Monee, (parts of) Park Forest, Peotone, and (parts of) Steger):
The amount of students meeting or exceeding expectations are: 34.4% in English, 22.1% in Math, and 40.8% in Science. Yet, 86.4% of 9th graders are supposedly “on track” and 90.3% graduate. Chronic absenteeism plagues 19.3% of students and 15.4% of our students have IEPs.
Cook County South Suburbs (Burnham, Calumet City, Chicago Heights, Country Club Hills, Dixmoor, Dolton, East Hazel Crest, Flossmoor, Ford Heights, Glenwood, Harvey, Hazel Crest, Homewood, Lansing, Lynwood, Markham, Matteson, Olympia Fields, (parts of) Park Forest, Phoenix, Richton Park, Riverdale, Sauk Village, South Chicago Heights, South Holland, (parts of) Steger, Thornton, and University Park):
The amount of students meeting or exceeding expectations are: 22.4% in English, 15.5% in Math, and 31.9% in Science. Yet, 74.8% of 9th graders are supposedly “on track” and 85.9% graduate. Chronic absenteeism plagues 19.5% of students and 12.5% of our students have IEPs.
Chicago’s Southern Neighborhoods (Avalon Park, East Side, Hegewisch, (parts of) Hyde Park, Jeffrey Manor, Calumet Heights, Pill Hill, Pullman, Riverdale, Roseland, South Chicago, South Deering, South Shore, West Pullman, and Woodlawn):
The amount of students meeting or exceeding expectations are: 16.3% in English, 11.1% in Math, and 28.4% in Science. Yet, 81.6% of 9th graders are supposedly “on track” and 80.3% graduate. Chronic absenteeism plagues 24.5% of students and 14.1% of our students have IEPs.
Needless to say, each section of this Congressional district is below the state averages. However, there are a few exceptional schools within our district. But, overall the news is not good. These numbers tell me that something is wrong on a massive scale. It’s widespread. It’s not a failure of the teachers. It’s not a failure of the students. It’s not a failure of the parents. These numbers are indicative of a system-wide failure. Due to the lack of positive leadership from our political and government leaders, we have ignored the education system, causing it to crumble and fail our precious children.
Issues Contributing to the Problem
8am – 3pm
Everything about the “school day” ensures that children fall through the cracks. For the most part, nearly every school system in the United States operates from approximately 8am to 3pm, Monday through Friday, for 9 months of the year. As many parents can attest to, the brains of children and teens are often not “awake” at 8am. Our children have very different biorhythms (cycles of alertness and sleepiness). Yet, we educate all of them as if they are all the same. They are not. We need our public schools to be as flexible as our children are diverse. Children deserve a chance to succeed, but if the child’s brain is foggy for half the school day, that child is going to struggle, trying to force his or her brain to “think” when it’s foggy and groggy.
Often, the child’s school schedule conflicts with the parents’ work schedule. The 9a – 5p, weekday schedule was the overwhelming norm and standard for the 20th Century, but the typical schedule of the 21st Century family in the United States is not as standardized. We live in a 24/7 world now. Work schedules are much more diverse. Yet, school schedules have not kept up with this changing culture. The single mother is the one most affected by this conflict. If she does not have family or friends to help, she is in a constant state of trying to figure out how to balance her work schedule with her child’s school schedule, with both of those schedules being very inflexible. It’s extremely burdensome for our single parents who are already struggling in other areas. We don’t need to add to their burdens.
Months: 9 on, 3 off
There were significant reasons to operate a school with the three months off for summer. It was because children from farming families weren’t in school during the summer months when they were needed on the farm. But, times have changed. The vast majority of students do not live on farms and farming technology has made it possible to run a farm without as much help from children.
Even though there is no need for this schedule, its continued use is very detrimental to our children. When children have a lengthy time away from school, they regress in their knowledge. Most teachers see this at the beginning of the school year, when they have to spend time reviewing concepts that were already covered in the last month or two of the previous school year. Basically, our children take 5 steps forward and one step back each and every year. The time, spent re-learning forgotten concepts, is time wasted. We need a system where the children are constantly moving in a forward direction, without regression.
Missed days = missed lessons
The high rate of chronic absenteeism means that our children are missing a lot of lessons and instruction. This puts these children at a disadvantage when they are in school. How can a child learn division if he or she missed a lot of school when the class was learning their multiplication tables? Missing those key building blocks makes it impossible for the child to move on to more difficult topics. Often, the onus is on the child to meet with the teacher or get additional tutoring to get that missed instruction.
We need a system where the student is not reliant on lessons from the teacher, but can learn on his or her own, with guidance (if needed) by the teacher. Our children should be able to take a day or two off of school for illness and be able to pick up where he or she left off before the illness, so that he or she has not missed anything important.
Advancement As a Group
Under our current educational system, the teacher dictates when to move on to a new topic in the course. The class moves on as a group, regardless of whether the students are ready. Most teachers do not move on until most of the students have grasped the previous concepts, but there are usually a couple students who are not ready to move on. Additionally, there are often a couple students who caught on to the previous topic the first time it was explained. These students are at risk of becoming bored while they wait for the rest of the class to catch up. So, most classes have some students who are bored and some who are confused and lost, yet the class moves on as a group.
Each student is an individual and this group mentality of moving from topic to topic as an entire class completely ignores the various rates at which our children learn and grasp various concepts. It’s not the teacher’s fault. The teacher has to do what is in the best interests of the majority of his or her class. But, it inadvertently provides openings for some children to fall through the cracks.
Fixed Time Per Subject
Most schools have a time schedule to which the teachers must adhere. In the lower grades, this tends to be more flexible. But in middle school and high school, it is a lot stricter. Remember when you had “hours” or “periods” throughout the day. First hour was English, second Math, third P.E., and so on. This type of schedule usually only affords 40 – 60 minutes per subject. The typical student has subjects in which he or she is really good and subjects in which he or she struggles. Yet, the student is given is same amount of time in every subject.
One student may need 60 minutes in Math, but only 20 minutes in English to learn the new concepts and do the assignments. Another student may excel in Math and only need 20 minutes in Math, but struggles in English and needs 60 minutes in English in order to grasp the concepts and do the assignments. Under our current educational system, both of these students are given 45 minutes in each class, causing student A to fall behind in Math and student B to fall behind in English. We need a system that can be easily adaptable and tailored to each student’s individual strengths and weaknesses, so that every child gets the time he or she needs to fully grasp each and every concept being taught.
There are many problems with the type of curriculum that we have in our public school system. First of all, education is based on age. It’s a cookie-cutter system that takes all 5 year old children, dumps them into kindergarten, and moves them along a conveyor-like system, then spits them out 13 years later, with a diploma, and says “congratulations. Now go conquer the world.” Yet, no one questions this method of education.
Teaching to a Test vs. Internalization of Knowledge
We have this idea that education is about the information you teach (input) and how the children perform on tests (output). Education is supposed to be about learning and gaining knowledge. It needs to be internalized and be capable of being remembered later, far after the test has been administered. We need to ask ourselves, what is more important, having our children perform better on a test, regurgitating disconnected facts which are forgotten minutes after the test or developing a wealth of knowledge that will better serve our children for the rest of their lives? We need a system that focuses more on the learning, ensuring that each child advances in each subject ONLY when the child has truly mastered the previous topic. This allows the child to be confident in his or her knowledge instead of lost and confused. Side note: This also builds true self-esteem and confidence.
Age-Based Education vs. Skill-Based Education
In our current educational system, everything is based on your chronological age. Yet, this method exists nowhere in the rest of society. Our work environments are not age-based. Our neighborhoods are not age-based. Marriage is not really age-based. People marry in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and so on. Why do we think that children need to be separated and grouped by age? Some children grow intellectually faster than others. Some grow at a slower rate. Some children are ready to start kindergarten at age 3. Others may not be ready until age 7.
A child’s age is not reflective of his or her intellectual maturity. It’s only a reflection of his or her time on this Earth. If we want strong, confident children, maybe we should start seeing them as unique individuals rather than a group of “cohorts” of a particular age. If we must “group” children, then maybe we should group them by skill sets, not age. After all, that’s the way the world actually works.
One area that I have seen dissolve in recent years is teaching of life skills, those skills that a person needs to live an independent life. Schools used to provide home economics, wood shop, auto shop, and much more. Although we need to be focused on Math, English, Literature, Vocabulary/Spelling, History, Science, Health, etc., we cannot ignore the basic skills of taking care of oneself. Our children will become adults one day and they need to be prepared for this transition. They will need to know how to cook, change a tire, check the oil in a vehicle, change a diaper, balance a checking account, pay bills, set up a household budget, solve problems, put together a bookcase or entertainment center, sweep a floor, and much more.
Most of these skills can be taught in a relatively short amount of time and can be grouped together in an “Adult Living” course. One area that every child should learn is finances. Our children will one day be making financial decisions and we need to make sure that they are prepared and have the knowledge to make great financial decisions. Topics need to include APR, interest, budgeting, paying bills (and the effects of late payments), FICA scores, bank account management, insurance, comparison shopping, and so forth. When educating our children, we must be focused on the end goal – to prepare our children for success when they are adults because as much as we want them to stay young forever, they WILL grow up. It’s our job to make sure they are ready when that time comes.
Lack of Religious Freedom in Public Schools
Although we often hear the phrase “Separation of church and state”, it is not in our United States Constitution. As a matter of fact, it did not really become a part of the American culture until 1947 in the United States Supreme Court case of Everson v. Board of Education. It was written by Justice Hugo Black who stated, “The First Amendment has erected ‘a wall of separation between the church and state’ … that wall must be kept high and impregnable.” (Side note: Justice Hugo Black was a Democrat and former Klansman)
The point of the First Amendment was to ensure that the state (government) stayed out of the church’s business. There is no evidence that the church was ever meant to be kept out of the state’s business. However, it has become a standard that we currently have in the United States.
Our First Amendment right to freedom of religion is seriously compromised when we have a public school system that ONLY guarantees a secular education. Every parent supposedly has a right to choose to have their children educated with a religious education. However, that right can only be exercised if the parent pays thousands of dollars per year per child to send the child to a private school or if the parent gives up a job to stay home and homeschool the child.
Most parents do not have the financial means to do either, effectively forcing them to use a secular education system, whether they agree with it or not. It’s even worse for the single parent who cannot just quit a job to homeschool. This effectively infringes on the rights of the parents to choose the method of education, secular or religious, for their children.
We need a system that allows our children to receive the type of education that the parents want, not just what the parents can afford. Religious education should not be reserved only for the wealthy. It should be available for all students. This does not mean that it should be forced on anyone. Parents should have the freedom to decide whether their children receive secular or religious education.
We need a system that protects the rights of everyone, regardless of religious affiliation or economic status. Freedom is based on options. When options are limited, freedom and liberty are destroyed. Freedom only exists in a world of options and choices. Our children deserve to have those options available to them.
Burdens on Teachers
We expect far too much from our teachers today. Not only are they trying to educate our children, but they are spending countless hours outside of the classroom grading papers, test, and assignments, but they are also preparing lesson plans, photocopying worksheets, logging grades, and so much more. As if that was not enough, they spend money out of their own pockets for supplies needed in their classroom to make up for the supplies that children from economically disadvantaged families are unable to purchase. These teachers are devoting so much of themselves to educate our children. Sadly, this devotion often goes unrecognized and unappreciated.
Teaching should not be an all-encompassing profession. Teachers need a break at the end of the day, not more work. How would YOU feel if you spent 8 – 10 hours a day with 20 children demanding your attention while refusing to give you their attention? Try to wrangle 20 or more children into their seats to learn about long division or photosynthesis. Most teachers go into the teaching profession because they truly love children, but let’s be honest, everyone has a limit. Even the most adoring, loving, compassionate, and patient parent has moments when he or she loses his or her cool.
Teaching should not be as stressful as it is today. It used to be a highly rewarding profession. Now, it has become a stressful profession, with everyone looking to blame the teacher for the students’ poor performance or behavior. Our children spend 6 or more hours a day with these heroic bastions of knowledge tirelessly trying to impart some of that knowledge into our children. Do you want your child’s teacher stressful, exhausted, and irritable? Or do you want your child’s teacher cheerful, relaxed, and calm as she guides your child on his journey of knowledge? Maybe it’s time to rethink the role of the teacher and start honoring these “everyday heroes” and “everyday heroines”.
Limited Teacher / Student Time
In the lower grades, students often spend the majority of their school day with one teacher. But as our children move into middle school, junior high, and high school, their schedules change drastically. The student moves from classroom to classroom, from teacher to teacher depending on the “hour” or “period”. These shorter periods of time with each teacher makes it much less likely that any one teacher will be able to identify a child with struggles.
Childhood is often filled with a plethora of life struggles, from changes in financial situations to changes in family structure (marriage, divorces, remarriages, changes in custody), to abuse and neglect, to the loss of a loved one (family member, friend, or pet), eyesight problems, hearing problems, learning difficulties, and so much more. During each and every change or challenge, the child’s educational needs change. Unlike adults who have already faced these types of challenges, children are usually more deeply affected but lack the vocabulary to voice their hearts and minds. Sometimes the only way to detect a child who is struggling is when there is a change in behavior and/or academic performance. Other than parents, teachers are in the BEST position to notice these changes. But when a child is only with a teacher for an hour or less per day, it takes longer for the teacher to notice changes in the child.
Limiting our children to the number of teachers they interact with each day, means our children get to spend more time with just a few teachers, building trusting relationships. The teachers get to know the nuances of each child and be better able to pick up on the slightest changes. The teacher can then get the child the proper resources to ensure that the child does not fall through the cracks.
In an age when people are more disconnected than ever, we need to give our children the connections to resourceful adults that are in positions to assist them through the difficulties of growing up. Childhood comes with many “growing pains”, but teachers, who are limited to a smaller group of students during the day, week, month, and year, are better positioned to ease these growing pains and help to make the journey of growing up a little less stressful.
Burdens on Parents
Excessive Assignments and Homework
Our children already spend an average of 7 hours per day in school. Why do they have homework? Shouldn’t the schoolwork be able to be completed during that timeframe? When school bleeds into home life, it places an additional burden on the parents and family. It also takes away family time, childhood exploration, and play time. Everyone needs a break. How would you feel if you brought work home every day after working a full day? School is “work” for children. They need their downtime just as much, if not more so, than adults.
Plus, with the burdens that modern parents already have on their plates, parents just do not have the time to devote to spending hours each night supplementing the education of their children. When the school day is over and the children return to their home, this is vital time for the children to spend bonding and reconnecting with their families. Homework disrupts this vital function of the family. Parents and children need this time for the healthy growth of the family, especially the children. Parents, especially single parents, need this time to relax with their beloved children. It keeps stress levels down, ensuring a healthy, stable family and home.
Not only does homework interrupt the already small amount of time that children have to spend with their parents each day, but extracurricular activities often destroy whatever time is left. We need an educational system that also allows for extracurricular activities to take place during the school day. This allows for the American family to have their precious evening back to relax, reconnect, and enjoy time with each other.
Although there are many, vastly different views on how to prevent school shootings, one thing is clear. We are all concerned about our children’s safety in an environment that used to be a bastion of safety and learning. We want that back. We need policies that ensure the safety of our children. But, it must be balanced so our schools do not begin to look like prisons. Schools should not need metal detectors, and armed security in order to keep our children safe. We need common-sense solutions that utilize technology, skills, and deterrence to build a shield around our schools so they will again become the safe haven they once were.
Bullying and Fights
Children, by their very nature, lack the maturity to fully comprehend the damage that bullying and fighting can inflict on others. It is up to adults to minimize the opportunities for children to bully and fight. We need to give them productive conflict resolution techniques to resist the lure of bullying.
It is obvious that our schools are failing. Between the inflexible schedules, outdated curriculum designed to pick winners and losers, additional burdens on teachers and parents, and safety concerns, many of our children are falling through the Grand Canyon-sized cracks in our system. It’s time to re-invent the way we educate our children. Our children deserve the chance to be educated for lifelong success.
 Library of Congress, Everson v. Board of Education, http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep330/usrep330001/usrep330001.pdf, accessed February 23, 2019.
Rehabilitative Earn-Out Sentencing Time (REST)
Time-Based Sentencing is what we have today. It means that when a person is convicted of a crime, he or she is given a term of incarceration. That person goes to prison, and then gets released after the time has expired. There are very few incentives for the inmate to correct his or her behavior. It is merely a “time-out” for adults.
Since criminals earn their way to prison, shouldn’t they be required to “earn” their way out of prison? This would require a series of objectives or tasks to be completed and a series of skills to be acquired before he or she can be released. This helps in rehabilitating the criminal and make sure that the person exiting prison is better than he or she was when he or she entered prison. But how would this work?
Post-Conviction, Pre-Sentencing Psychological Evaluation
As a part of the Pre-Sentencing Evaluation, the newly convicted person would undergo a thorough psychological evaluation to determine the convict’s atavistic score. This means that we would have a better idea of the convict’s ability to be rehabilitated. If he or she rates really high on the atavistic scale, he or she is so damaged that rehabilitation would be highly unlikely, resulting in a sentencing term of natural life because this is a person that would be a danger to society, no matter how much we attempt to rehabilitate him or her.
The vast majority of criminals would not be this high. Most would score much lower and that score would give the sentencing judge an idea of how much rehabilitation would be needed. The higher the score, the more rehabilitation needed for that particular convict.
During sentencing, the convict would be given a minimum sentence that must be served at 100% of that time. The convict would also receive a list of objectives, rehabilitative training, and tasks that need to be completed and a list of skills that need to be acquired before the convict can begin the release process (step-down re-entry). If the convict gets to the end of his or her minimum sentence, but has not completed everything on the sentencing list, he or she is not eligible to begin the release process. The actual term in prison will be up to the convict. The longer he or she takes to complete the sentencing list, the longer he or she will be incarcerated. There would not be any maximum sentences. The maximum is set by the convict and his or her commitment to rehabilitation.
Release Process (Step-Down Re-Entry)
Once the inmate has completed the minimum sentence AND everything on the sentencing list, he or she will be released to a half-way house. Again, the convict will have a list of additional objectives and tasks to complete and additional skills to be acquired in order to proceed in the process. During this time, the convict is allowed more visits from loved ones, a regular job, a monitored cell phone, and more freedom of movement. But, there is a curfew and the convict is still closely guarded, just not 24/7 like in prison.
Once the convict has accomplished all of those tasks, objectives, and skills, he or she will go to home-monitoring. This allows the convict to live with family, have a later curfew, and periodic monitoring. There are additional objectives and tasks that need to be completed at this level and additional skills need to be acquired. This is the final test to see whether the convict has rehabilitated and is successfully assimilating back into society as a productive member of society.
The final stage is release from the home monitoring, but with a requirement that the now “ex-con” continues individual counseling and group therapy to keep him or her on the correct path. This is where the ex-con will be in the greatest danger of “falling off the wagon”, so follow-up support is desperately needed during this time. Eventually, the ex-con will not be required to continue the counseling sessions but this will be at the discretion of the counselors. However, the ex-con will always have the counseling available if, and when, he or she needs it. This is very similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and other addiction programs. We must recognize that criminality is an addiction of sorts. We must provide support to those who are feeling the temptation to regress back into a life of crime.
Amend Controlled Substances Bill
We have some drugs listed as Schedule I drugs that are not as harmful as we once thought. There are other drugs that are listed as Schedule IV drugs that are much more harmful than we originally thought. We need to convene a drug council to bring in experts, scientists, pharmacists, and the public to have an open discussion as to the effects of the drugs listed in the Controlled Substances Act. Many of these drugs need to be reclassified, based on updated research.
Marijuana is one that should definitely be moved from Schedule I to Schedule IV (making it legal, but controlled) or removed entirely because it does have significant medical purposes and is much less harmful than many of the OTC (over-the-counter) medications on the market today. A compromise could be that marijuana with less than 0.3% THC (the substance that causes a “high”) would be legal over the counter, but marijuana with more than 0.3% THC would only be available with a prescription. This would make marijuana legal in all 50 states.
Some pain medication is so physically addictive that the patient needs another medication to combat the severe withdrawal symptoms when the patient is weening off of the pain medication. These pain medications are highly dangerous and addictive; some have even been linked to suicide.
PREFERRED AMENDMENT TO CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT
In June 1971, President Richard Nixon declares a “War on Drugs” and identifies drugs as “public enemy No.1”. In 1984, First Lady Nancy Reagan launched her “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. Their “war on drugs” is still continuing today. How is the war on drugs working?
40 Years + $1 TRILLION = FAILURE
Some of the headlines from various sources:
“U.S. Drug War Has Met None of Its Goals: After 40 years and $1 trillion, drug use is rampant and violence pervasive” – NBC News
“Associated Press: After 40 Years, $1 Trillion, US Drug War ‘Has Failed to Meet Any of Its Goals’” – Huffington Post
“War on Drugs a Trillion-Dollar Failure” - CNN
“Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs” – CATO Institute
DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has a FY2019 budget of $2.8622 Billion! Of the more than 1.6 million drug arrests in 2017 (typical average since 1995), 85.4% (1,394,515) of them are for possession, and 14.6% for the sale of manufacturing of a drug. This provides a lot of data for us to think about. Drugs arrests fluctuate from year to year, but have remained pretty steady at about 1.5 – 1.6 million arrests per year for the past 25 years. It does not look like drug use is declining.
Quite the contrary. In 1999, there were 16,849 drug overdose deaths in the United States. That number has steadily increased through 2017 (most current year of data), when there were 70,237 drug overdose deaths in the United States. In July 1999, the U.S. population was 273 million. In December 2017, the U.S. population was 326 million. The drug-related deaths have quadrupled at a time when our population has increased by only 19%. The deaths from opioids has gone from 8,048 to 47,600; 3,442 to 17,029 for prescriptions; 1,960 to 15,482 for heroin; 547 to 10,333 for psychostimulants (including Methamphetamine); 3,822 to 13,942 for cocaine; and 1,135 to 11,537 for Benzodiazepines.
Also, the vast majority of drug arrests are for possession, not selling or manufacturing drugs. It looks like we are going after the drug addicts more than the drug dealers and cartels. The drug users and addicts are victims in this mess. Arresting them and slapping them with a criminal record is not going to do anything to cure their addiction. It just makes their situation even more unbearable.
The War on Drugs has resulted in an explosion in arrests, courts flooded with drug cases, prisons overflowing, more than a $1 TRILLION of taxpayer money being wasted, more and more drug-related deaths each year, and no end in sight. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who can state that the War on Drugs has been a success. By every metric, it has been an absolute failure. Can the war on drugs even be won?
No, it can’t until we admit that we are looking at the problem from the wrong perspective. Then, and only then, can we change our view and stand a chance at actually solving the problem. As much as it nauseates me to admit it, the most logical and reasonable solution is to legalize all drugs, but still consider them “controlled substances” that need to be regulated with government oversight.
Two things will happen immediately once drugs are legalized. The first is that the government will finally be able to control and regulate the drug market, ensuring that the drugs being sold are not altered (“laced”) with unknown substances that can make the drug even more dangerous. The government can also begin research into making the drugs better and safer. For instance, marijuana can be made extremely safe and medically beneficial by eliminating (or nearly eliminating) the amount of THC in it. Even if we cannot do that with other drugs, we can possibly make it safer and see more medical benefits of many of these drugs. We may even be able to control the addictiveness of these drugs.
The second thing that will happen immediately once drugs are legalized is that the government can TAX it. Instead of throwing trillions of dollars down the drain, we can have more money coming into our government. But, don’t get too excited yet. That money NEEDS to go into building, maintaining, and operating long-term treatment facilities for addicts. I would only support the legalization IF the verbiage of the bill ensures that the revenue will ONLY go to long-term treatment facilities. This is a deal-breaker for me.
One of the biggest obstacles people face once they are addicted is that they cannot afford the more effective long-term treatment programs and facilities. At best, they are able to get into cheap short-term programs that have very high failure (relapse) rates. By taxing drugs, the government will finally have a revenue stream to funnel into real, long-term, and highly effective treatment centers all around the nation so we can actually CURE the disease of addiction once a person is ready to get that treatment.
Another huge bonus is that gangs will be starved of their primary income source. But, this bonus benefit has its dark side. They will just find other ways to make money, probably increasing human trafficking, so we need to be on guard and ready to combat that issue as well.
Another great benefit to legalizing drugs is that we can take the production and sale of drugs out of the shadows and put those “drug dealers” to work in labs that are producing safer recreational drugs. This gives the former illegal drug dealer a legitimate job, earning legitimate pay, which can then be taxed as taxable income. Again, making this a profitable venture, while funneling the majority of the revenue to treatment programs and actually curing the problem.
There is no way to truly legislate our way out of the drug business. If laws were all that were needed to control human behavior, we would not have any murders in the United States. We can make it more difficult and less appealing to engage in certain behavior and reward desirable behavior, but in the end, this is a free nation and people are free to make their own choices – whether good or bad.
In the end, the solution requires us to look at the addict as a patient, not a criminal. They need our compassion, mercy, and assistance. They need us to bridge that gap between addiction and recovery, not block their path to recovery with prison time.
 NBC News, Mendoza, Bartha, Associated Press, May 13, 2010, U.S. Drug War Has Met None of Its Goals, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/37134751/ns/us_news-security/t/us-drug-war-has-met-none-its-goals/#.XBfmNGhKjIU, accessed December 17, 2018.
 Huffington Post, Associated Press: After 40 Years, $1 Trillion, US Drug War ‘Has Failed to Meet Any of Its Goals’, Armentano, Paul and Earleywine, Mitch, May 14, 2010, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-armentano/associated-press-after-40_b_575483.html, accessed December 17, 2018.
 CNN, War on Drugs a Trillion-Dollar Failure, Branson, Richard, December 7, 2012, https://www.cnn.com/2012/12/06/opinion/branson-end-war-on-drugs/, accessed December 17, 2018.
 CATO Institute, Four Decades and Counting: The Continued Failure of the War on Drugs, Coyne, Christopher J., and Hall, Abigail R., April 12, 2017, https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/four-decades-counting-continued-failure-war-drugs, accessed December 17, 2018.
 Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), https://www.justice.gov/jmd/page/file/1033151/download, accessed December 17, 2018.
 Drug War Facts, “Total Annual Arrests in the US by Type of Offense”, https://www.drugwarfacts.org/node/235#, accessed December 17, 2018, citing “Crime in the United States 2017 – Arrests,” FBI Uniform Crime Report (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, September 2018), p. 1, and Arrest Table: Arrests for Drug Abuse Violations, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/topic-pages/persons-arrested, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/tables/arrest-table; also citing “Crime in the United States -2000,” FBI Uniform Crime Reports (Washington, DC: US Governmental Printing Office, 2001), p. 216, Tables 29 and 4.1., http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2000/toc00.pdf.
 National Institute on Drug Abuse, Overdose Death Rates, https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates, accessed February 1, 2019.
Criminal Justice Diagnostic Report
In 2017, the cost of incarceration per inmate in the federal prisons was $36,299.25 per year. The cost of confinement in a Residential Re-entry Center was $32,309.80. It is much cheaper (11% cheaper) to confine inmates in Residential Re-entry Centers.
In 2016, the 2,162,400 inmates incarcerated in the United States, cost an average of $33,274 per inmate per year, creating a combined cost of over $42.8 BILLION per year (for 45 of the 50 states)! In Illinois alone, there are 47,622 inmates costing $33,507 per inmate per year. This costs the Illinois taxpayers a total of $1,595,647,075 per year! That’s $1.5 BILLION per year! There are only 5 states that pay more per year to incarcerate people. There are only 6 states that incarcerate more people.
The average cost per citizen is $137 per year. That doesn’t sound like much until you calculate your household’s cost. If you have 4 people in your household, that’s an annual cost of $548 (137 * 4) for the household. One would hope that all of that money would be producing some great results.
“At least 95% of all state prisoners will be released from prison at some point”. Of those released back into our communities, 43.9% were arrested at least once during their first year after release, 83.4% (5 out of 6) of state prisoners released in 2005 were arrested again within 9 years of their release.  That’s a pretty high failure rate. Would that be allowed to continue if this were any other business.
Let’s replace Corrections System with Ford Motor Company and see what the result would be. If 95% of the Ford vehicles made were sold and of those sold, 44% had break failures within the first year, and 83% had break failures within 9 years, would it be acceptable to the public? Of course not! There would be Congressional hearings DAILY to fix this massive problem and there would be a race to protect the American public. For every former inmate who recidivates (commits another crime), there are innocent American citizens being victimized. Where is the outcry? Where is the outrage?
It is time to admit that our “correctional” facilities are NOT correcting anything. If anything, our “correctional” facilities are designed to provide a collegiate-level education in mastering the art of criminality. For many criminals, going to prison is the equivalent of college, but for criminals. This is where they learn how to be better criminals, how to improve their chances of not getting caught the next time, how to leave less evidence the next time, etc.
With the amount of convicts that WILL be released into our neighborhoods at some point, it is in SOCIETY’s best interest to make sure that those released are better people, not masters of crime. Wouldn’t it be great if they go into prison broken, but come out fixed? Shouldn’t that be the goal since the majority of them will be released anyway?
We classify convicts based on the classification of the crime that they commit. Although that does make sense to some degree, it’s far too simplistic. We look at the convict’s past, such as how many previous arrests and/or convictions, (major vs. Minor) role in the crime, whether the victim contributed in the crime, remorse (which can be faked), addictions, difficult upbringing/family circumstances, whether the victim was a “vulnerable” victim (child, elderly, disabled), mental or physical illness, and more. All of this looks at the past. No one is thinking about the future. The questions that we, as a society, should ask are:
- Does this defendant (convict) need mental health treatment?
- Is this defendant (convict) capable of being rehabilitated?
- What factors in his or her past can be corrected through rehabilitation?
- How willing is the defendant to participate in rehabilitative programs?
- If the convict is capable of being rehabilitated, what does he or she need to become a productive member of society in the future?
By asking these questions, we look to the future, not just the past. We are recognizing that there is a very good chance that the convict will rejoin society, so we are formulating a plan to prepare that convict for successful reintegration into society.
This requires us to properly evaluate convicts to determine which convicts need mental health treatment, are capable of rehabilitation, and are not capable of being rehabilitated. Again, we must be mindful not to oversimplify this process by classifying based only on the type of crime (i.e., thieves can be rehabilitated, but rapists cannot). We MUST look at each individual convict to determine his or her rehabilitative ability.
Minor Crimes (Misdemeanors)
When it comes to the minor crimes, restorative justice programs may be a better solution. What is Restorative Justice? In the traditional criminal justice setting, a crime happens, a suspect is arrested, and the victim may or may not testify at trial. The suspect is convicted and sent to prison as punishment, then later released from his or her “time out”, usually with a chip on his or her shoulder. In the meantime, the victim is left to heal him or herself.
Restorative Justice allows the victim and the suspect to both engage in repair what was harmed. The suspect (defendant, convict) accepts responsibility for his or her actions and works with the victim and the community to figure out how to heal from the harm that was done. An example would be some youths who vandalize a construction site. Under the traditional criminal justice system, the youths would go to juvenile detention for a set time (without any accountability or rehabilitation, resulting in hostility towards the Construction Company and society) and the construction company would clean up the physical mess left by the youths.
With Restorative Justice, the youths, the head of the construction company, the kids’ parents, counselors, and attorneys would get together to discuss the situation. The youths would have to admit and acknowledge what they did and why it was wrong. The parents would need to be supportive (not defend their “babies”). Everyone works together to figure out how the youths can fix the situation. This may include paying for the cleanup, spending time at the construction site physically cleaning up the mess they created, learning about the construction project (why it was being constructed, how it was meant to help the community, how the vandalism delayed the growth of the community, etc.), and more. This is meant to teach the youths about the consequences of their actions, how their actions affect others, including themselves, and how their actions affect the community as a whole.
Restorative Justice seeks to hold the offender accountable, while providing the victim with a voice to be an active participant. The victim and offender are not just passive objects in the process; they are active participants. Both the victim and offender are empowered to chart their own path back to restoration. Punishment tends to lead to more crime. A lack of punishment leads to more crime. Crime is very contagious. But, with Restorative Justice, we are stopping the cancer at the very beginning, preventing it from spreading and infecting others.
The goals of Restorative Justice are:
- Invite full participation and consensus
- Heal what has been broken
- Seek full and direct accountability
- Reunite what has been divided
- Strengthen the community, to prevent further harm
Restorative Justice is not about avoiding responsibility. Responsibility is at the very core of Restorative Justice. It is about justice, responsibility, accountability, empowerment (especially of the victim), healing, stopping the spread of crime, and restoring communities.
Redefining Hate Crimes
I have tried to think of a crime that was done out of love. If John kills Adam because Adam has hurt Sheila (whom John loves), then I can see that there is a love component, but John is killing Adam out of hate for Adam and love for Sheila. There always seems to be a degree of hate involved in most crimes.
Murder of certain victims from certain protected groups can be labeled a “hate crime.” However, if the victim does not fit into one of those protected groups, it is not considered a hate crime. Try explaining to the mother, whose son was just gunned down, why her son’s murder is not considered a “hate crime”, worthy of a stricter sentence.
An example would be two African-American mothers, each with a son who was gunned down. Mother A’s son was killed by another African American. Mother B’s son was killed by a Caucasian. The African American who killed mother A’s son gets 30 years in prison for murder. The Caucasian who killed Mother B’s son gets a natural life sentence because it was classified as a “hate crime”. Is that fair to the mothers? Both are mourning the losses of their sons. Both sons are still dead. Is the pain of one mother greater than another? Try explaining to Mother A how the person who killed her son will get out of prison in about 20 years (good behavior) because her son’s death wasn’t as bad as the death of Mother B’s son.
Crime is crime. Hate is usually a factor in most crime. Even when greed is the motivating factor, the offender HATES that he or she doesn’t have more and is willing to take from others to soothe this hatred.
The term “hate crime” is incredibly redundant. Do we really need to classify crime this way? It may be time to can a duck, a duck and a crime, a crime.
The Death Penalty should be reserved for only the most extreme cases. The Death Penalty is so extreme that there is absolutely no room for mistakes. Our criminal justice system is imperfect. Mistakes can, and do, happen. Innocent people have been convicted, even sent to death row. Modern science has shed a light on just how imperfect our system can be. The Death Penalty is a sentence that cannot be overturned or corrected once the sentence has been carried out. We can’t bring back the dead who were wrongfully convicted and executed. So, we need to make sure that anyone given this extreme sentence is truly, indisputably guilty. How can we know?
When we are talking about a mass murderer or a serial killer, with overwhelming evidence, we can be more certain that the conviction(s) are correct. When someone has been convicted of killing multiple people, especially on multiple occasions, we can be certain that even if he was wrongfully convicted of one murder, it is highly unlikely that he was wrongfully convicted of each murder. These are the extreme cases, where guilt has been proven over and over, with overwhelming evidence. These would be the types of cases that would warrant the death sentence.
Drugs and Addiction
Addiction has been treated as criminal behavior. In most circumstances, it is a disease. Addiction is very difficult to treat, but it is treatable. We, as a society, need to recognize that drug abuse is a disease that requires medical intervention and intensive, multi-faceted rehabilitative treatment. Many good, decent, productive members of our society have been destroyed by this disease. What starts out as an injury requiring pain management can quickly become an addiction.
For decades, we have viewed addiction as a personal failure of those afflicted. We have denied treatment and incarcerated addicts. Yet, the problem persists. We cannot incarcerate our way out of this disease. We have spent more than four decades trying that and failing. We must treat our way out of this problem. Long-term rehabilitation is the common sense approach needed to heal those broken and shattered by drug abuse.
But, treatment programs, especially long-term treatment programs cost a lot of money. Think about all the money we have invested in our failed War on Drugs. Imagine how many people we could have rehabilitated if that money would have been used on treatment and rehabilitation instead of arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating people for drug offenses. We’ve spent decades throwing money down the drain. It’s time we repurpose that money for treatment and long-term rehabilitation programs, rather than continue to waste that money for another four decades.
Although this Diagnostic Report is far from a complete list of the problems with our Criminal Justice system, it lays out some of the most serious problems. When we wonder why it costs so much or why our crime problems do not seem to be getting better, many of the issues stated in this report are the reasons. Under our current Criminal Justice system, crime doesn’t go away. It festers. It spreads. It is a societal behavioral disease. Without treatment, it will only grow. We can continue to beat it without mercy, or we can treat it and cure it, once and for all. It is up to us to change our perspective. Then, and only then, do we stand a chance at healing our broken society.
 National Archives, Federal Register: The Daily Journal of the United States Government, Annual Determination of Average Cost of Incarceration, Bureau of Prisons, Justice Department, April 30, 2018, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/04/30/2018-09062/annual-determination-of-average-cost-of-incarceration, accessed February 10, 2020.
 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Kaeble, Danielle and Cowhig, Mary, BJS Statisticians, Correctional Populations in the United States, 2016, April 2018, NCJ 251211, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpus16.pdf, accessed December 15, 2018.
 Vera Institute of Justice, The Price of Prisons: Examining State Spending Trends, 2010-2015, Mai, Chris and Subramanian, Ram, May 2017, pages 7-8, https://storage.googleapis.com/vera-web-assets/downloads/Publications/price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends/legacy_downloads/the-price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends.pdf, accessed December 15, 2018.
 Vera Institute of Justice, The Price of Prisons: Examining State Spending Trends, 2010-2015, Mai, Chris and Subramanian, Ram, May 2017, page 12, https://storage.googleapis.com/vera-web-assets/downloads/Publications/price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends/legacy_downloads/the-price-of-prisons-2015-state-spending-trends.pdf, accessed December 15, 2018.
 Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Reentry Trends In The U.S., Hughes, Timothy and Wilson, Doris James, BJS Statisticians, https://www.bjs.gov/content/reentry/reentry.cfm#highlights, accessed December 15, 2018.
 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, “2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014); Alper, Ph.D, Mariel and Durose, Matthew R., BJS Statisticians, Markman, Joshua, former BJS Statistician, May 2018, page 6, Table 3 https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/18upr9yfup0514.pdf, accessed December 15, 2018.