From The Writer’s Almanac for today, March 31, 2010:

On this day in 1889, the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated in Paris. It was built for the Paris Exposition as part of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, and also as a demonstration of the structural capabilities of iron. The tower elicited strong reactions after its opening. A petition of 300 names, including writers Guy de Maupassant, Émile Zola, and Alexandre Dumas the younger, was sent to the city government protesting its construction, declaring it 'useless' and a 'monstrosity.'

De Maupassant hated the tower so much that he started eating in its restaurant every day, because, he said, 'It is the only place in Paris where I don't have to see it.'

For those who haven’t had a chance to read the particulars of the new health care reform law, here it is in several formats. (Thanks to Don, Erin and Diane for the links.)

First, a CliffNotes version from the folks who brought you the whole thing. Second, a handy plug-in that explains exactly how you’ll fare, no matter what your circumstances. (There’s no law that says you can’t try several different scenarios.). Third, a more robust analysis by a staunchly non-partisan organization. And finally, a spotlight on a section overlooked by most media, i.e., changes in the way we will care for people when they need it most. 

1. Here’s a write-down of each section of the entire law, as passed. It’s short and fairly easy to understand.

2. The Washington Post has a cool interactive site. Fill in a couple of particulars (male, 57, NY, employer-provided insurance) and it will call up all the elements of the law that will pertain to your situation.

3. The Kaiser Family Foundation is a leader in health care information. Here is their summary of coverage provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

4. The blog Cab Drollery cites an interesting opinion piece in the Los AngelesTimes, which outlines some of the benefits seniors will reap related to changes in Medicare that promote more home-based, long-term care. The plan is to move away from the nursing-home model to group- and home-based models for care. I bet many seniors will appreciate this.

A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinarian's office. As she laid her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird's chest.

After a moment or two, the vet shook his head and sadly said, "I'm sorry, your duck, Cuddles, has passed away."

The distressed woman wailed, "Are you sure?" 

"Yes, I am sure. Your duck is dead," replied the vet.

"How can you be so sure?" she protested. "I mean you haven't done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something."

The vet rolled his eyes, turned around and left the room.  He returned a few minutes later with a black Labrador retriever. As the duck's owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. He then looked up at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head.

The vet patted the dog on the head and took it out of the room. A few minutes later he returned with a cat. The cat jumped on the table and also delicately sniffed the bird from head to foot. The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of the room.

The vet looked at the woman and said, "I'm sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely, 100% certifiably, a dead duck."

The vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the woman.

The duck's owner, still in shock, took the bill. "$150!" she cried, "$150 just to tell me my duck is dead!"

The vet shrugged, "I'm sorry. If you had just taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20, but with the lab report and the cat scan, it's now $150."
Thanks for this, Brad!

Thanks, Bill Campbell of The Tome of the Unknown Writer, for sharing this.

Kevin Pho, M.D., has a surprising take on the health care reform bill, as passed by the House Sunday night:
Kevin and numerous guest bloggers (including this one) have written extensively about this legislation on, read by almost 30,000 people daily. In addition to publishing his medical blog, this primary care physician maintains a lively Facebook page and Twitter voice, and contributes often to the editorial pages of USA Today. 

What will health care reform mean to you and your family?

Here's a section-by-section analysis of the bill, to date:

What does the health care reform bill do for seniors?

Here’s a timely video sent to Birds readers by the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: 

Let’s suppose you live in a city with a 35% (!) unemployment rate and you lose your job. 

And let’s suppose your region isn’t the only one suffering from extraordinarily high unemployment. Unemployment is rampant, but unevenly distributed. You just happen to live in one of the worst places.

To help people like yourself, Congressman Smith from another state is sponsoring the New Jobs for America Bill  (NJAB) to stimulate job growth and provide benefits to the unemployed until the economy picks up.  

Would you expect your own Congressperson to vote YES on the NJAB? Or would you be happier if he or she said, “Hell, no, we don’t want no stinking new jobs in our area,” then votes NO and proposes his own We Don’t Want Your Stinking Jobs Bill?

Well, about 100 members of the House of Representatives did exactly that in the health care reform arena, voting against help for those without insurance, in spite of constituencies with 1-in-3, 1-in-4 and 1-in-5 uninsured. Most were from districts in Florida, Texas and California, as well as other parts of the south and west. Almost all were Republican. 

To add to the craziness, minutes after the bill was signed into law, Virginia, Idaho, Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Washington, Alabama, Michigan, and South Dakota filed lawsuits against the federal government to prevent it from providing health insurance to large numbers of their uninsured. What? 

Remember what John Boehner (Rep, 0H-8) said just before the vote about how important it was to listen to and represent the needs of one’s constituents, not just vote the party line?  He told them he was listening to them, probably in reference to the Tea Party slogan, "Listen to Me!"

To be fair, Boehner doesn’t have an unusually high number of uninsured in his district --only 12.40% -- but he did receive $2,728,844 in campaign contributions from the health care industry.  Which constituency was he listening to when he voted NO? 

Boehner isn’t the only one beholden to the industry, however. There are plenty sitting on both sides of the aisle.

(On the other hand, Charles Rangel (Dem, NY-15), from a district with 18.20% uninsured,  accepted $3,867,249 in contributions, but voted YES. Go figure.) 

Why would voters keep returning people to Congress to vote against their best interests? Does this make any sense? 

Here are a few names from the list of NO voters representing districts with high percentages of uninsured. You might recognize he name of a few who have been in Congress for many years.  

Joseph Barton                     TX-6                23.20% uninsured
Roy Blunt                              MO-7              19.50%
Lincoln Diaz-Balat               Fl-21               31.30%
Mario Diaz-Balat                 FL-25              31.30%
Kay Granger                        TX-12              25.70%
Ron Paul (!)                          TX-14              24.00%
John Mica                             FL-7                20.70%
Connie Mack                        FL-14              26.10%
Darrell Issa                           CA-49              21.90%
Charles Young                      FL-10              22.70%
Pete Sessions                     TX-32               35.70%
John Deal                             GA-9                 23.20
Virginia Brown-Waite          FL-5                 24.80%
Michael Conaway                TX-11               27.00%
Mary Bono Mack                  CA-45              24.10%

And the list goes on.

For a complete look at how members voted, how much they received in campaign contributions from the industry, and how many in their district are uninsured, see: 

In case you missed this in the NYT
Republican lawmakers stir up the 'tea party' crowd

By Dana Milbank
The Washington Post, Monday, March 22, 2010; A01

The Democrats were blamed for many horrible things -- tyranny! socialism! corruption! -- as they marched toward Sunday night's passage of health-care legislation, but nobody ever accused them of making health reform look easy.

It all began 14 long months ago, when Ted Kennedy was still alive and everybody, Republicans and Democrats alike, seemed to agree that the nation's health-care system needed change. Then came the town hall meetings, the death panels, the granny killing, the images of Nazi concentration camps, the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, Joe Wilson's "You lie!" moment, the middle-of-the-night and Christmas Eve votes, the Massachusetts special election, the Stupak Amendment, the Slaughter Plan, the filibusters, the supermajorities, the deeming and passing.

It was one of the ugliest and strangest periods the American legislative process has ever experienced. And Sunday was no different. The day's debate on the House floor was in its early moments when two men, one smelling strongly of alcohol, stood up in the public gallery and interrupted the debate with shouts of "Kill the bill!" and "The people said no!" As the Capitol Police led the demonstrators from the chamber, Republicans cheered -- for the hecklers.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who for the second day in a row had homophobic epithets hurled at him by demonstrators, called his Republican colleagues "clowns" for this display. But the circus was just beginning.

As lawmakers debated their way to a vote on the legislation, dozens of GOP lawmakers walked from the chamber, crossed the Speaker's Lobby, stepped out onto the members-only House balcony -- and proceeded to incite an unruly crowd.

Thousands of conservative "tea party" activists had massed on the south side of the Capitol, pushing to within about 50 feet of the building. Some Democrats worried aloud about the risk of violence, and police tried to keep the crowd away from the building.

But rather than calm the demonstrators, Republican congressmen whipped the masses into a frenzy. There on the House balcony, the GOP lawmakers' legislative dissent and the tea-party protest merged into one. Some lawmakers waved handwritten signs and led the crowd in chants of "Kill the bill." A few waved the yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flag of the tea-party movement. Still others fired up the demonstrators with campaign-style signs mocking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Click "Read More" for the rest of the piece.

Two hundred and nineteen thank yous, with special thanks to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Steny Hoyer and many other champions of health care reform. On the Senate side, belated thank yous to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his staff, who answered so many of our questions. Of course, we thank Pres. Barack Obama for his vision and tenacity. 

Please thank all the bloggers who kept the topic alive and facts flowing over the past year, especially Kevin, Ronni, Saul, George, Darlene, Jan, Steve, Bill, Ann, Kathleen, Jacqui, Mary, Nancy and Diane.    

And, thanks to all who wrote or added to the health care reform discussion on this blog.

We know this is only the beginning of a rocky, winding and uneven path toward meaningful health care reform, but, it's a start. Now, the real work begins.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

The hilltowns are still covered in snow and in the valleys dirty piles of old snow remind us it’s  March, not May. But in Smith College’s conservatory and orangerie, the bees hum while you soak in the smell of hyacinth and gardenia. Glorious spring has arrived!