March 29, 2020

The foundation of any insurance program is this: Individuals put money into a common fund, to be used by any of those individuals in case of specified circumstances.

*Your contribution to the common fund
*Administrative costs (managers, clerks, accountants, etc.)

*Payment for your health care, according to what you and the owners have agreed to in a contract

*Your contribution to the common fund
*Administrative costs (managers, clerks, accountants, etc.)

*Payment for your health care, according to what you and the owners have agreed to in a contract

It is like cooperative insurance, but it also covers people who, for reasons beyond their control, have not contributed to the common fund. Universal health care may be owned by government. It must be overseen by government. Most universal health care programs adjust contributions based on ability to pay, rather than on the extent of coverage as with other types of insurance.

Obviously, any kind of insurance can work satisfactorily or it can be abused and corrupted. The results depend on the good faith and competence of the managers and overseers. Ultimately, the contributors themselves must see that good managers and administrators are hired and held accountable. In the case of government programs, the people who are represented must also see that honest and good-faith representatives are elected and held accountable on a regular basis.

Mary Ann Lesh

Universal coverage is not “free medical care”

Universal coverage is medical care that is pre-paid BY all the members of a political entity (those who have the means to pay) and FOR everyone under the jurisdiction of that entity, regardless of their socioeconomic condition. This payment is made through equitable and effective collection and administration. The end result is that no person who is in need of treatment will be turned away, no patient has to deal with payment at the time treatment is received, and no medical entity has to bill patients directly. It does NOT mean that doctors, nurses, hospital staff and other care providers have to work without fair compensation. It DOES mean that decisions about prevention and treatment will be based on what is best for patient and society, not on what will generate a profit. Universal coverage does not preclude wisdom in making those choices or sound financial stewardship. Quite the contrary.

This is a good time to to think about the broken medical / pharmaceutical system in the United States, lay aside old biases, put an end to name-calling, and look pragmatically at ways to do it better. A change of heart at the national level would be wonderful, but even the most heartless and self-interested individuals should be able to agree that if there is a vaccine or a cure for a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease, they should be available to ANYBODY who needs them, no questions asked, no money changing hands between patient and provider. Those with even a flicker of compassion would also agree that no person suffering from a curable or manageable illness or accident should be left to die just because they have no money.

There are many options for funding and administering universal health care and dealing with the many complexities of the effort. We can study the models provided by all the other developed nations and even some less-developed ones. Medicare for All has the advantage in the United States of giving us a familiar place to start, adapting and extending any of its policies and structures that have worked well, and building others that will make it work universally.

Any system will be less effective if it is not administered with honesty, integrity, and hard-nosed oversight. However, the decision to make the best health care available to everyone who needs it should not be postponed because of a lot of “what if’s.” Make the commitment, and then put the best qualified, most honest people you can find in charge. Perfection is not attainable, but ongoing improvement is.

Corruption and abuse can creep into even the best systems. They should be dealt with proactively and as they arise, but the possibility should not stand in the way of getting started any more than the possibility of rain should stop us from ever planning to do anything because we might get rained out.

Observations concerning COVID-19

Cancún, México
March 26, 2020

I’m not an economist or a doctor or even a nurse. I’m a language teacher and amateur journalist. What I DO know how to do is sift through a lot of information, try to separate facts from lies, and lies from meaningful, useful, honest fiction (like parables and parodies, for example), then reassemble them in teachable / learnable units, appropriate for intended readers. Having confessed that, I want to venture an observation, based on my own perspectives.

Our economy, the world economy, has not stopped working. A lot of us still enjoy electricity, electronics, running water, gas, flushing toilets, cars, gasoline, and an array of products to choose from in supermarkets that are still up and running. Transportation, while limited, is still available to almost anywhere. Our trash gets picked up, firefighters and police are on call, and God bless all the hospital personnel and health professionals who are giving their all to hold back the coronavirus tsunami. All of this means that many, many people ARE indeed working. Some are working at home—organizing, thinking, coordinating, giving direction, keeping records, but many others have to be on the front lines.

Because a LIMITED number are on the front lines, protection is more feasible and effective, and we owe it to them to do everything possible to make sure they have what they need.

The economy is alarmingly slow, but it is under control.

Meanwhile, literally millions of us have a part to play in slowing the virus down by staying home, working from home, studying at home, homeschooling, taking care of each other and reaching out to others as best we can. A lot of us are able to do this in clean, climate-controlled surroundings, with a world of resources at our fingertips, and in relative safety and comfort.

HOWEVER, If we are too quick to crowd the marketplaces again, we risk seeing what an uncontrolled economic breakdown is like. When too many people are simultaneously too sick to go to work, we may find ourselves without electricity, running water, and all the things we are still taking for granted. The sick people may not be sick enough to die. They may even have a complete recovery ahead, but…IF TOO MANY PEOPLE ARE TOO SICK TO GO TO WORK ALL ON THE SAME DAY, THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT WILL BREAK DOWN.

Don’t #StayHome because I said so. Pay attention to the people who have studied biology, viruses, epidemics, sociology, history, and medicine. Show compassion and be generous whenever and wherever you can to those who are affected and those who were already suffering even before COVID-19 showed up.

We may be able to win this war, but it will take a lot of us working (or not working, as the case may be) TOGETHER.

Mary Ann Lesh

March 2020

Virtual Coffee Talk is the Best Option for Today

The news and events of the past month have given me a lot to think about. A lot. There have been pandemics and epidemics in my lifetime but, for the most part, I have been able to relegate them to other people, other places. Although the current numbers of people diagnosed with COVID-19 seem low, and the recovery rate is much better than it has been for other epidemics, there is something more frightening and compelling about this one.

I am tempted to buy into conspiracy theories, which are comforting in a twisted sort of way. I would prefer to believe that Evil Geniuses are in charge of some sinister plan rather than believe that I, too, am subject to nature’s apparent randomness, but when Disney, the NBA, the NFL, and the Vatican suddenly shuttered their profit-making venues, I knew in my bones that Evil Geniuses were not in charge and faced the terrifying prospect that no human beings were in control, that we were, in fact, passengers on a plane without a pilot.

I find comfort in prayer and faith, and I believe in the eventual triumph of Good over Evil, but God has historically not exempt even His most beloved and faithful from earthly pain, deprivation, and suffering. Quite the contrary. We might take comfort in the stories of Noah, Lot, and Joshua, but we must also take into account the stories of Job, Jonah, Jesus, the Martyred Saints, and the victims of the Holocaust.

Cancun, Mexico, where I live, looks and feels very much the same as always. There are fewer planes flying over, and, with schools shut down, weekday traffic is somewhat lighter. Bars and casinos are closed as of today, but I have never been to a local bar or casino. Mexico’s cases of COVID-19 so far are increasing arithmetically rather than geometrically, and today the first death was reported in the country.

Since I am retired, my daily routine has changed very little, if at all, but the mental and emotional backdrop of those comforting routines is tinged with fears, doubts, and “what if’s.” The underlying reality is uncertainty about almost everything, especially people’s ability to keep working in tourist-fueled industries that, from one day to the next, slowed down to a near stop.

After days of worrying about myself because I am part of the demographic at higher risk of death from the virus, I realized that the voluntary sheltering, the distant air-kisses, the elbow clicks in lieu of handshakes, the handwashing, the batman coughs and sneezes are not about me protecting myself. This disease, compared with, say, HIV Aids in its heyday, is relatively mild and survivable.

The serious danger, and the reason for all the precautions, is that the virus is mutable and very, very contagious. In this globalized world, contagion has not arrived from abroad in days or weeks, but in minutes and hours. It is also dangerous because its relatively survivable nature makes it tempting to deny its importance.

Enough cases, however, even survivable ones, can shut down economies (involuntarily, not voluntarily as is the case for many economic activities today), overwhelm hospitals and care facilities, and put people at risk from dying of injuries and illnesses that, in ordinary circumstances would not be lethal with proper care. We live, move, work, and entertain ourselves in herds. We must isolate for a time if we want to survive, not just as individuals, but as a species.

There are probably far more lethal germs in my kitchen right this minute, but my immune system knows how to resist them and, if necessary, fight them. Medical science has additional weapons to help nature along. This is not true for the COVID-19 virus.

Truth against misinformation, disinformation, misconceptions, and outright lies

Wikipedia Guide to Misinformation About the Coronavirus

It is easy to fall into conspiracy theories, miraculous preventatives and remedies, and finding the truth can be hard. I can’t claim to know the answers or what is true and what isn’t. Wikipedia is not trying to be the definitive voice of truth; however, this article gives as much substance of the questionable claims as one could hope for, as well as the evidence known to date for and against such claims. They are updating it constantly and providing links to help all of us find what is credible and what is true and separate the half-truths, misconceptions, and misinformation from information that can really help.

I am open to alternative preventions and cures as well as creative thinking about almost everything. I don’t think we should “throw the babies out with the bath water,” but it is important in a crisis to stay grounded in what we know, what is credible, and what is logical.

This is a good time to dust off our critical thinking skills. They may save lives.

Beware of click-bait and carnival barkers getting richer by peddling false hope.

Love Stories That Mess Us Up

I can’t live without you!”

Does that mean that the one who says it really really loves you?


It’s a romantic thing we say to each other, but if your prospective partner shows signs of really believing it, he or she is not reality-based, and you should run as fast as possible in another direction. Love means being a whole person who doesn’t need another person but can choose freely to love that person. Love may mean carrying on alone what you and a loved one have built together. The traditional marriage vow reminds us of this in the words until death do us part. It is not the happiest part of the marriage vow, but it reminds us to live and love and rejoice in being together in the here and now and that someday, sad as it may be, one partner will have to carry on without the other.


The right person, your true love, your soulmate, will make you happy for the rest of your life. All you have to do is find that one person who is right for you.


You are the only person in the world who can make YOU happy. If you are an unhappy single person, you will be an unhappy married person. Your spouse, your mother, your friend, your counselor, your minister may point the way to Happiness and her less-glamorous but more desirable sister, Contentment, but you have to find them for yourself.

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