Archive

July 3rd, 2016

Drug coupons may save you money, but they're keeping drug prices high. Here's how.

    A few months back, after returning from a family vacation that involved lots of pool time, my 9-year-old son complained that his ear hurt. A Sunday morning trip to urgent care brought a diagnosis of swimmer's ear - an infection of the outer ear canal - and a prescription for ear drops. When my wife went to fill the prescription, for a quarter of an ounce, she was told that our share of the cost would be $135.

    Even with the increasingly high cost of drugs, that seemed like a lot. Since I'm a longtime health-care reporter, my wife asked me what to do. "Fill it," I said, thinking more like a father than a journalist.

    Wisely, she didn't listen. Instead, she searched online for a coupon for the brand-name drug the doctor had prescribed, Ciprodex. She pulled one up on her phone, showed it to the pharmacist and sliced our cost by more than half, to $60.

    That was great for us. Like most consumers, we were practically giddy about the savings. But such coupons have hidden effects on health-care costs that most of us don't ponder.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Credit-card companies know how little you know

    When I was 22, I wondered how credit-card companies made money. I had two cards at the time. They were free to use. Every month I would buy things with the cards, and - because I used auto-pay - every month the balance would be deducted from my checking account. As far as I could tell, this was a free service. And if I decided not to pay my credit-card bills, and just go bankrupt, there was no way the card issuer would make money off of me. With things like cash back, it seemed like I was getting paid to use this card. What kind of business model pays people to use its product?

    Ten years later, as I helped a friend figure out how to refinance his credit-card bills, I realized how the business model must work. Card issuers, mainly banks, profit by charging penalty fees when people pay off their credit-card balances late. Of course, that isn't the only way they make money - they, along with MasterCard and Visa, also charge merchants fees to use the payment services, and they charge other fees for things like balance transfers. But a lot of their business model is just consumer lending - which they do at rates of about 12 percent to 14 percent.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Brexit might undermine Europe's democratic order

    Since Britain voted to leave the European Union there has been much discussion of Brexit's economic and financial implications as well as its political consequences for the U.K. What will happen to Labour and the Conservatives? Does this mean the end of the United Kingdom?

    Less thought, however, has been given to Brexit's impact on the future of democracy in Europe. European integration was an integral part of the foundation upon which Europe was reconstructed after World War II. Brexit signals and will likely further the erosion of this foundation, which undergirded the most prosperous, peaceful and politically stable period Europe had ever known.

    It is easy to forget that democracy in Europe is a relatively recent development. Up through the middle of the 20th century, Europe was the most turbulent region on Earth, convulsed by wars, economic crises and sociopolitical conflicts. To prevent a recurrence of these patterns after 1945, European leaders believed that a transformation at the domestic, international and regional levels was necessary.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

July 2nd

Marco Rubio would like to keep his Senate seat after all

    What a surprise! "Little Marco" Rubio, Donald Trump's favorite punching bag, after once offering to trade his seat in the U.S. Senate for the Oval Office, has decided to seek re-election after all. His self-sacrifice seems to have no bounds.

    The only recently expectant next president of the United States didn't take long after his thoroughly humiliating exit from that race, in which cans were tied to his tail not only by Trump but also by Trump's favorite hit man, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

    Followers of the fruitless stop-Trump effort will remember how in debate Trump cast off the youthful Rubio like an annoying flea. Then Christie fingered him as a rehearsed robot, catching him in a virtual word-by-word attack on President Obama. Christie trotted out the old Ronald Reagan line against Jimmy Carter -- "There he goes again" -- to devastating effect.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Adultery is none of the military's business

    Is the military's law making adultery a crime unconstitutional? So says a colonel who's been charged with violating it. His motives aren't great -- he's trying to deflect attention from more serious charges, including rape. But he may be right. The law arguably discriminates by criminalizing only heterosexual adultery. And even if that vestigial aspect of the law could be fixed, there's another problem: the anti-adultery law violates the fundamental right of privacy, which should extend even to armed-forces personnel, whose constitutional rights are limited by military necessity.

    The issue has arisen in the context of a court-martial against U.S. Air Force Colonel Marcus Caughey. He's been charged with rape, assault, taking a sexual selfie - and six counts of adultery. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which governs uniformed personnel, adultery is a crime. Military prosecutors typically add the charge when a defendant is accused of other crimes. It gives them extra leverage, but also provides room for the factfinder, whether judge or jury, to reach a compromise verdict and find the defendant guilty of adultery even if it doesn't find him guilty of rape or assault.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Trump offers magic, not answers, in the Rust Belt

    Donald Trump traveled to Pennsylvania steel country on Tuesday to make his case against globalism. Hollywood couldn't have provided a better backdrop. And, fittingly, the story he told was pure fantasy.

    In an address at the site of a long-closed steel mill in the town of Monessen, the presumptive Republican nominee pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and label China a currency manipulator. "Trade reform and renegotiation of trade deals is the quickest way to bring jobs back to our country," Trump declared.

    If this message raises hopes in Monessen and other hollowed-out U.S. industrial towns, then it's a cruel distraction from the real facts.

    The steel mill, which dated to the 1850s and was last owned by Wheeling-Pittsburgh, shut its doors in 1986. A scrap-metal processor took its place. Over the last 30 years, Monessen has lost half its population and much of its tax base. The local newspaper stopped publishing last year.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Trump dares business to flee Republican Party

    Nominating a charlatan for president is the most obvious indication of the rot at the core of the Republican Party. No healthy institution would voluntarily elect Donald Trump to lead it.

    The speech Trump delivered in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, attacking globalization and trade, will provide more cause for panic among Republican elites. Yet Trump's ascendance has obscured, for a time, the equally big troubles that produced him.

    Balancing conflicting interests within a coalition is tough. Among Democrats, tension persists, for example, between unions and the party's supporters in global finance. Democrats have tried to mediate that conflict by, among other things, supporting free-trade agreements that include provisions specifically favored by labor. The party faces a similar struggle between labor and environmentalists, who have wildly divergent opinions about the benefits of, say, pipeline construction. Likewise, Democrats occasionally stick it to their wealthy supporters, raising their taxes. Other times, they retreat, as when they abandoned President Barack Obama's plan to tax 529 education plans.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

The startling leadership vacuum in post-Brexit Britain

    On June 21, David Cameron stood in front of the prime minister's residence at No. 10 Downing Street and made a last-ditch plea. "Brits don't quit," he said, urging voters, particularly older ones, to side with him and elect to remain in the European Union. "We get involved. We take a lead. We make a difference, we get things done."

    Just three days later, on that famed stoop, he would do exactly that: Quit. Hours after British voters shocked the world by voting to leave the E.U., the very man who said he would remain in the job if he lost, the very man who called for the referendum in the first place - a reckless and needless political tactic - resigned, right there, on the spot.

    It was a stunning moment that may have ultimately been inevitable for the prime minister, but did nothing to spur confidence in a country that has seen a gaping void open in its leadership. The world may be reeling from "Brexit's" grim economic fallout - the warnings of recession, the 30-year drop in the value of the pound, the global stock market declines -- but the leadership fallout from Britain's stunning vote is just as, if not more, ominous.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

The Miserable Catch 22 of Mental Illness

    I’m depressed.

    I’ve dealt with mental health issues for decades now. Nothing fancy or interesting like multiple personalities or hallucinations. Just run-of-the-mill boring ones — good old depression and anxiety, and maybe some undiagnosed PTSD to go with it.

    Mental illness has a stigma, but most sufferers are like me. Boring. Struggling. Outwardly pretty normal. Not a threat to society. Sometimes we even push our way through work, relationships, raising kids, or — in my case — graduate school.

    Lately, I’ve been splitting my time between hating myself and working on my thesis.

    It’s kind of odd to go back and forth between reading academic journal articles like a functional grown-up and curling up in the fetal position in bed like a child. If you saw me in public, you’d never know anything was wrong.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Speak truth to black power, too

    Since I'm not a regular viewer of "Grey's Anatomy," I didn't know who the actor Jesse Williams was until his eloquent rants about the state of race in America popped up in viral internet videos.

    Now he's hit the big time. He's been widely hailed and covered for his "courage" and "speaking truth to power" in an eloquent speech he delivered after accepting the Humanitarian Award at the BET Awards on Sunday night.

    It's a stirring speech, a bracing indication of Williams' theatrical talents, multimedia commentaries and community activism.

    It was also a heartwarming speech. The Chicago-born Williams began with thanks to his parents, as cameras turned to his white mother and black father -- stirring symbols of a new era of racial harmony.

    He also paused to salute "black women in particular who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you." Big applause for that, deservedly so.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!