What would Francis say about the SGR?

A few weeks ago, I read this article about everyone’s favorite Argentine and his perspective on caring for seniors:

“We must reawaken our collective sense of gratitude, appreciation and hospitality, helping the elderly know they are a living part of their communities.”


During his weekly address in early March, he focused on our responsibility to honor and protect seniors, stating that ignoring this responsibility is shameful. From the article:

” ‘A society that cannot show gratitude and affection to the elderly ‘is a perverse society,’ the pope said. ‘The church, faithful to the word of God, cannot tolerate such degeneration.’

‘Where the elderly are not honored, there is no future for the young.’ ” Amen!

So this morning, I’ve been thinking-what would the Pope say about the SGR deal?

It’s impossible to avoid the celebratory e-mails and Tweets-it seems like everyone in health policy is rejoicing about the end of the SGR.  And yes, it is great that that is over.  And incredible that QI is now permanent, and tremendously important that CHIP is extended.

But the jubilee? That Congressional leaders managed to throw a few carrots to the needy in exchange for payment bumps for providers? And only asked for sacrifice from Medicare beneficiaries? Nothing from providers or insurance companies? That it took ten years for Congress to finally unite over a logistical hassle?

If we’re being really cynical, as a friend of mine explained-it’s almost brilliant evil genius.  Throw in a CHIP extension and a modest protection for vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries, and you’ll be able to push any provider gift through Congress. With the only payment clarity being that Medicare beneficiaries will foot the bill.  The rest, we’ll figure out later.

And it worked-one of the most dramatic bipartisan votes on health care in both the Senate and House.

Asking seniors to sacrifice with out anything from corporations-I wonder what Pope Francis would think about that.  Tie in the small giveaway to consumer groups to quiet them up and push the legislation through-well, that’s the doctrine of another Francis. It certainly gets a job done.

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Spring forward

What a difference a week makes!

Last night, a friend asked how everything’s been. David is doing so well.  I’m realizing he is physically recovering much faster than I’m mentally recouping from the emotional coaster of the last few weeks. The best thing is David is getting better!

Part of me feels like I should document some of my thoughts from this experience.  Watching David go through this shook me, and as my emotions settle, I’m noticing a priority shift.

While cataloging these thoughts may help me grow, watching David get better and stronger makes me eager to let go and move on.

David is planning on going back to work tomorrow.  This weekend, we had dinner with our parents and last night, celebrated as our friends got married in a beautiful church ceremony.

These moments were wonderful as is, but I was acutely aware of how lucky we were to be a part of each gathering.

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Passover & Easter Weekend

Sending good thoughts for a peaceful Easter and Passover.

Managed a brief nod to Passover last night, standing in the kitchen, with a chopped liver and matza snack.  In that moment, I was immensely thankful to just be home.

This is was a difficult week. On Wednesday, David was admitted to the hospital after going to the ER with severe complications from bronchitis.  Four days and lots of tests later, we finally came home.  Turns out, it is incredibly serious pneumonia with complications.

The most important thing is he is going to be ok.  Words on this post cannot adequately express my gratitude for that.

The last week was scary and exhausting. The coming weeks will be intense as David has a lot of recouperating ahead.

I wrote several pages of thoughts in my notebook on my phone, but they’re gone.  Maybe that’s for the best? It was an eye opening experience and certainly made me think about priorities.

For now, just concentrating on how grateful I am that we’re home, David will get better, and we’re together.

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Winter reading list, continued…

Book three is LEAN IN.

The day before my birthday, I stayed in bed all morning reading this.  Full disclosure-I’ve been dreading reading this book, as I assumed it would be a referendum on all the things I may have done wrong in my career.  The decision to leave DC was not easy one.  Throughout months of deciding, I heard Sandburg’s words from her Barnard speech ringing in my head, “Don’t leave until you leave!” By leaving DC, was I taking my foot off the accelerator, careening down the off-ramp to a less fruitful professional future?

Who knows? I hope not, though these questions are bound to flare up every now and then. I’m just glad I caved and finally read the book.  It’s about so much more than the speech.

Prior to reading, I imagined Sandburg as someone I would struggle to relate to-an overachieving-Type A-only needs 5 hours of sleep-lacks any vulnerabilities or compassion-type. After reading, I really like Sandburg.  She’s funny and actually quite relatable (personality-obviously not in success or lifestyle).  Many times throughout the book, I felt my eyes popping as she honestly divulged some of the more difficult moments in her career.

Throughout her writing, she demonstrates that she’s always learning and admitting mistakes.  I’m finding that is one of the most refreshing elements of leadership: working with people who are honest about vulnerabilities, reflect on challenges, and ask questions.  It opens the door for discussion and collaboration.  One of the most damaging tenets of the legal education is the Socratic method.  Three years and an ungodly amount of student loans to develop a dogged persistence that your answer, your view is correct and absolute-no matter how shaky the foundation.  That’s fine for a court room, but shouldn’t we be trained to collaborate and discuss? In my few years as an attorney, I’ve found we generated some of our more creative ideas and thoughtful projects when we admitted we do not have the answers and we can safely question our own theories. Sandburg never suggests she had everything figured out from Day 1, and as a young professional, I found that honesty remarkably encouraging.

She also writes about bringing your whole self to work.  This blew my mind. Again, as a young professional, I try to keep my personal life separate from work-it took me a solid year to put photos up in my office. Again with the law school doctrine, we’re trained that attorneys should never suggest they have a life or any trappings of a life that could in any way distract from the work at hand.  The ridiculous element in all of this is I work for an incredibly supportive organization, so the rigid separation is requirement is completely my own neurosis.

Anyway, Sandburg encourages women and men to be honest about their lives in the work force.  She tells the story questioning a young woman who turns down a job offer at Google.  She asks the woman if she’s worried about taking on the demands of the new job during a time she may want to have children.  Sandburg admits she’s asking questions that would make her employment lawyers panic, but she holds firm that an open discussion about life demands is critical for an effective work force.

Though I find the premise quite surprising, I couldn’t agree more. It got me thinking the caregiving.  Sandburg’s target audience is women like me: young professionals, navigating their early careers.  But her teaching applies just as equally to a more seasoned workforce.  Baby boomers are getting crushed from both ends of caregiving.  Clear support exists for the anxiety of rearing children, but most boomers feel alone, barely treading water as they care for their parents.

There’s an important movement to require employers to provide paid leave for family members caring for older adults or family members.  Sandburg’s “bring your whole self to work,” got me thinking-that’s only part of the puzzle. In addition to paid leave, we need environments where people can bring their whole selves to work.  Thinking of both the employer and employee, how much stress would we avoid if employees were encouraged, early on, to be upfront about their real or potential caregiving needs.  Would they feel so alone if it was part of normal work conversation? If they felt safe to say: “Here’s the deal, my parent/child/spouse has this issue, it may be fine, or it may be something that requires significant time off in the future. I want you to know now so we can all be prepared.” Who is protected by the expectation that the employer to be a neutral party in the employee’s life challenges? No one. We all know about the billions of dollar in lost productivity from caregiver stress.

Ha-I guess it’s impossible for me to read anything without thinking of implications for seniors/aging, but Sandburg got me thinking. It’s an excellent book.

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Winter reading list, continued

One True Thing

I checked this out after reading an AQ quote on the Glitter and Glue cover, thinking it would be good to read some of her fiction.


This book.  It is captivating-I read it in a few days after work-but I don’t know.  I grew up with AQ’s columns in Newsweek and LOCPOC is on my top ten list of books that stayed, but I’d never read her fiction.  It’s tough when you do not like the narrator and I did NOT like the narrator.  The wrenching premise is a challenge, and I had a difficult time with it as is, let alone following it from the narrator’s perspective. 

Quindlen wrote the book in the early 90s, and the fact that death with dignity remains a controversial struggle made me think.

Weeks after finishing the book, I’m still moved by this passage:

“the lesson (my mother) left is that it is possible to love and care for a man and still have at your core a strength so great you never even needed to put it on display.”

Still mulling on that, like so much of AQ’s gems of wisdom.  Tomorrow: thoughts on Lean In…

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