Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The day I met Dr. Ignacio Ponseti

I cried in the shower Monday morning when I learned about Dr. Ponseti's death. He passed away Sunday, Oct. 18th, after complications following a stroke he'd suffered while quietly working in his office (pictured above) at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics last week. He was 95.

I've known Dr. Ponseti since 2004 when a friend invited me to accompany her and her 10-year-old son for a consultation on her son's relapsed clubfoot. I watched quietly as Dr. Ponseti examined Gabriel, assisted by Dr. Stuart Weinstein and Dr. Jose Morcuende. During the consultation and initial treatment, Dr. Ponseti gently massaged the affected foot, talking in his soft Mallorcan-accent to Gabe and then to Gabe's mother. He wasn't just massaging the foot, but feeling the pattern of bones, tendons, ligaments, an inner terrain known intimately by Dr. Ponseti.

I returned several times for in-person interviews with Dr. Ponseti, who shared his time, his stories, and his gentle spirit with enormous generosity. I kept in touch via email, and a year later, Gabriel walked down the halls of the University of Iowa's Ponseti Clubfoot Treatment Center located at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City--fully cured. Gabriel's case made medical history for being the oldest child treated by the Ponseti team for clubfoot correction, a success story.

But curing clubfeet is not the only legacy Dr. Ponseti leaves us. His example of caring for others extends throughout his life, including an amazing evacuation of 40 injured soldiers and loyalists out of the country during the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

The details read like a movie, which I don't doubt posts like mine may encourage: When the commander and ambulance driver abandoned them, Ignacio Ponseti, only in his twenties himself, did not leave these injured; he and another man scavanged up some mules and vehicles to help transport this motley entourage over the Pyrenees Mountains to safety in France.

I plan to write more about Dr. Ponseti, because this modest man deserves to be introduced to people who didn't know him, those who have never heard his name outside the medical community or very far outside of Iowa.

Of course, the impact of his orthopedic work and expertise has attracted the deserved accolades within the worldwide medical community, and without a doubt, his method will continue to make a miraculous difference for children all around the globe.

But the choices he made in each phase of his life inspires--from dangerous risks to save others in Spain, his work in Mexico while he was a refugee, his arrival in Iowa in 1941 and his persistance in working past retirement in 1985 until his death last week--all this illuminates an extraordinary life lived selflessly, with a focus on helping others.

His shining example proves that ONE person (and the quality of one's choices) can, indeed, touch the world. Dr. Ponseti is my hero.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Swine Flu Paranoia Gets Out Of Hand

With all the bad news lately, we needed something a little silly.
Source: Stacy's Random Thoughts, written by my sis, Stacy.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Like to be a fly on the wall? Next teleconference on government regulations...

Future Town Hall Teleconference Meeting Dates - All town hall teleconferences will be held from 1:00pm to 3:00pm EST, unless otherwise noted.
  • June 9 - Liability (including Self-Insurance), No-Fault Insurance and Workers' Compensation Policy - Q&A

  • July 1 - Liability (including Self-Insurances), No-Fault Insurance and Workers' Compensation Technical Support Q&A

  • July 8 - GHP (Group Health Plans) NOTE: This is like the one I covered today, June 4th, 2009. This teleconference will cover questions related to employer-paid health plans.
Visit the CMS site for a complete schedule through the end of 2009.

Worried about privacy? You should be. Update on MMSEA 111 teleconference

I just finished my first live Tweet reporting of a teleconference hosted by Medicare (technically, the "Centers for Medicare and Medicaid," or CMS). It was about the new federal requirement for employers to send quarterly reports of all subscriber personal information. I will create a report of my Tweets and post them where you can read them, or feel free to browse In the meantime, here are my impressions:

1. CMS representatives sounded supportive, asking participants with questions to send details via email so they could help them after the teleconference.

2. HOWEVER--although CMS representative Bill Decker opened the session with assurances that this new government regulation is for cross-checking Medicare beneficiaries only, questions from attendees came up about getting social security numbers of spouses or employees in other locations who were refusing to provide them, as well as dates of birth. CMS's response: "We ask you to *ask* for the SSN, it doesn't hurt to ask." Sounds like if SSNs can be obtained, then go for it.

3. The new mandatory reporting allows employers to satisfy this requirement in either of two ways:
  • By submitting "Active Covered Individuals" [those eligible for Medicare: age 55, handicapped, or on kidney dialysis]
  • Or by using the "Finder File" feature [collect ALL employee and dependent personal information, filter list against Medicare's list or hire an outside contractor to do this, then submit to Medicare].
However, in both cases, the employer will be asking employees for spousal and dependent SSNs and dates of birth in order to determine Medicare eligibility--or, like my husband's employer, collect the information and send it to an outside third party to do the filter for submission to CMS.

I reiterate--I DO NOT WANT my husband's employer to have my SSN, or worse, some "outside third party." The SSN was never intended to be used as a de facto identifier anyway, so I object anytime it is used in this manner. Also, giving my SSN to an employer with whom I have no other contact is creepy. Why should they be able to access any information about me (or my children)? I know they're not "supposed to," but the potential for that exists; just think of Joe the Plumber (more details here).

But perhaps most frighteningly, giving up my SSN exposes me to greater potential of identity theft, since the information will be collected and disseminated in a myriad of electronic locations beyond my control, or beyond legitimate uses by the IRS or any of my previous actual employers. All it takes is for someone to lose a hard drive or for someone to steal a laptop for my personal information--and yours--to be compromised.

Tell me what you think.

In the meantime, if your spouse's employer asks for your SSN, use this form instead provided by the same agency requiring the collection of this information.

As for the potential for turning this into a National Healthcare Database, I think you can see how easy it would be to enlarge this system beyond simply "Medicare recipients." To comply, employers are already gathering your personal information for their quarterly reports to the government, including unprecedented collection of information on spouses and children of employees. It could be used as a national database of current healthcare beneficiaries, just a step away from becoming a national healthcare database.

Secret attempt to build National Healthcare Database already underway?

ALERT: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a branch of the Health & Human Services department of the federal government, is requiring employers under stiff penalites to gather and report all employee social security numbers, PLUS the SSNs of their SPOUSES and CHILDREN. Normally, an employer does not have the SSNs of an employee's family members as most health care benefits are paid under the employee's SSN. This "mandatory reporting" requirement began as a test mode earlier this year and is underway NOW.

There is a lot more detail about this regulation, but it is not only a violation of privacy and (possibly) SSN rules, it may be a disguised method for building the National Healthcare Databasethat the Obama administration has been talking about without allowing any national discussion or input from We The People.

Read more about the new MMSEA 111 regulation being implemented NOW, here at the CMS site.

Additionally, CMS is conducting a teleconference TODAY, June 4th, from 1pm to 3pm EST. As soon as I get the phone number, I will post it here on my blog, plus I'll announce it on Twitter and Facebook.
800-779-4354 - read the instructions HERE.*

THIS IS WRONG. We all must protest this activity NOW. I am in the process of contacting various news outlets to bring attention to this issue, but I need your help.

Here is my email I am using, and I encourage you to use this if you wish to contact your representatives and news outlets, too:
TODAY at 1pm EST, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is conducting a teleconference call to explain to employers and insurers the NEW mandatory regs on collecting Social Security Numbers of not only covered employees in group plans, but their SPOUSES and their CHILDREN to be submitted quarterly to the CMS office through third party contractors.

I learned about this when the human resources department at my husband's employer contacted him via email requesting my SSN, although I am not an employee. I didn't want them to have my SSN nor access to my health records, so I investigated this and discovered that although this new regulation, called "MMSEA 111," is supposedly to identify group health participants who are also eligible for Medicare (I am not)--to reportedly stop Medicare fraud--but it could easily be a secret effort to set up a National Healthcare Database without public knowledge or consent.

This requires employers to throw a wide net to gather SSNs of spouses and children which they don't normally have in their records since benefits are usually paid under the employee's SSN--and as I mentioned, it shifts the burdern of verifying Medicare recipients from the public to the private sector and may be the first step toward a NATIONAL HEALTHCARE DATABASE.

NO ONE in the media is talking about this. The process started late last year and the additions to Medicare regulation was signed just a few months ago at the end of December 2008, and is being implemented RIGHT NOW.

I am not eligible for Medicare, nor does anyone in my family receive Medicare benefits, so therefore, we should NOT have to turn over our SSNs to my husband's employer nor to CMS! This is a violation of our privacy rights and our right to protect our own SSNs. My husband is upset at me now, because he fears losing his job over not giving up my SSN (top management there do not like what they perceive to be "troublemakers"). But this is wrong.


Here is a direct link to this information at CMS:

The next deadline for employers to comply with this new regulation is July 1st, just a few weeks away, during this initial "testing" phase in gathering and transferring all of these SSNs from employers to third party contractors who will then forward it to CMS.

Please help dig out the details of this massive collection of employee's families' private information, which includes the name, SSN, date of birth, and gender. This is gross example of a federal agency shifting the burden of verifying Medicare recipients--which is the agency's responsibility--to the private sector. But more insidiously, this may be a "behind-the-scenes" effort to build that National Healthcare Database without public discussion and voter participation.

Again, the teleconference is TODAY, June 4th, from 1pm to 3pm EST (800-779-4354).

I have a background as a human resources director and benefits specialist, so I understand the issues at stake. I welcome your questions and urge you to get this information out to the public as quickly as possible.


Kimn Swenson Gollnick

* (PLEASE NOTE: If you join the teleconference, I suggest that you do so to listen only. I do not advise nor condone turning it into a protest, but to use it as a way to gather more information on this new regulation and to monitor the government's actions.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Goodbye, Seattle P-I

Overlooking Elliott Bay in Seattle, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been a fixture of Seattle since 1863. I worked at the P-I in the early 1990s. No, not as a reporter, but just before I began my freelance career. I worked on the P-I business staff as the benefits specialist, serving under Dianne Marr, the human resources director. Just the two of us representing the entire human resources department.

For nearly two years, I assisted the publisher and business staff, but my main duties involved assisting our reporters, photographers, and copy desk staff with all their questions and employee needs. I hung out at the copy desk downstairs with Katie and picked up on the newsroom chatter. I marveled at the stacks of new books wrapped in press releases quietly awaiting book reviews. I joked with our technical crew when databases needed backup or printers went on the fritz. These were people I came to care about and who I think of when I think of what makes up a newspaper, from all departments.

Today, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer distributed the last newspaper print issue. The last one.

Publisher Roger Ogelsby (who came on board after I left) says the P-I will be an "online only" newspaper, starting tomorrow. It's an interesting experiment, but I know one thing--it's just not the same. The New York Times says it "will resemble a local Huffington Post more than a traditional newspaper, with a news staff of about 20 people rather than the 165 it had, and a site with mostly commentary, advice and links to other news sites, along with some original reporting."

Of course, that's the nature of change, but this means 160 employees have lost their jobs and the people of Seattle and Washington state have lost one of its two biggest major newspapers. I don't know if the Seattle Times, privately owned, will be far behind.

All I know is this: the Fourth Estate is suffering.

But on this day, I wish to share my memories of the Seattle P-I:

Weekly editorial meetings on the first floor. Art Thiel's laugh and his sports columns, Steve Swearingen's mustache, Katherine White's kindness, Dianne Marr's quiet humor. Sitting with an employee who needed advice on his benefits after learning he was HIV positive. Getting to know one of the Hearst heirs, a young man sent to work at the P-I to "learn the ropes" of one of the family businesses--and I witnessed what happens to a person when there's no need to work for a living. Filing a dozen "thank you" letters for one of our reporters in his personnel file which thanked the P-I for sending a journalist who listened carefully and sorted through facts and fallacies to find the truth. (Some of our editors wanted to fire him because they would send him to an interview to get a quote for a story that was already "decided," but this reporter, a true journalist at heart, wrote the story based on the facts he turned up, not the ones decided before the facts were known. The public showed their appreciation in writing, and these thank you letters that kept coming in helped him keep his job--showing me the power of positive feedback and the power of a simple thank you.)

"Ronnie," my ventriloquial sidekick, also made an appearance at the P-I. I brought him in his suitcase to the building one day because after work, I had a gig--"Ronnie" and I were scheduled to tape a public service announcement at KOMO-TV in Seattle for a county-wide event coming up. One of the business staff found out "Ronnie" was in my office. Eagerly, she asked if "Ronnie" could speak to a group of elementary school students coming to visit the paper that same afternoon. I hesitated, not having anything prepared, but then agreed. Why not? I sat down and whipped off a few one-liners for "Ronnie" and made my way, suitcase in hand, to the large conference room overlooking the water. The kids' eyes opened wide as "Ronnie" joked about the newspaper biz and sang a silly song. "Ronnie" was a hit! He surprised even me.

I remember the year of the reporters' strike and the tense guild negotiations. I also remember discussions and disagreements over the JOA, the Joint Operating Agreement with the Seattle Times. Way back, the Times and the P-I signed this agreement in which the Times published both papers and ran the classifieds and collected the revenue (our staff consisted only of the reporters, photogs, news and business staff). Then the Times sent the P-I's portion of the profits to our business manager. A long-running disagreement existed over the correct amount. Eventually, the tenseness erupted in a legal fight in 2006. It was settled in April 2007. The details of that settlement seem chilling in light of the P-I's demise as a print product today.

And now, it's over. At least, the print product is gone, with all the people needed to produce it. Good-bye, dear Old Friend. Such sad news for all of us who worked there, who read your pages, who loved to see the turning world globe atop the P-I building. For 146 years, you've served the people of the greater Seattle region. I wish you all the best in the new online venture even as I mourn the loss of jobs and a tangible, rustley paper to hold in my hands. Thank you for being part of my experience, because after I left to start a family, I began my freelance writing career.

Thank you, to the hard-working journalists and editors and copy staff who gave me my first education in the news business.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration 2009

Barack Obama will be sworn in as President of the United States today during the Inauguration Ceremony that begins at 9am EST. Watch the inauguration and speech here:

Inauguration Schedule:
  • National Mall to open for citizens wishing to attend the swearing-in ceremony
  • Swearing in ceremony and celebrations to start at 10 AM ET on the West front of the US Capitol building
  • Musical Selections: The United States Marine Band, followed by The San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus
  • Call to Order and Welcoming Remarks: Senator Dianne Feinstein
  • Invocation: Dr. Rick Warren
  • Musical Selection: Aretha Franklin
  • Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will be sworn into office by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, the Honorable John Paul Stevens
  • Musical Selection: John Williams, composer/arranger with Itzhak Perlman, (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Anthony McGill (clarinet)
  • President-elect Barack H. Obama will take the Oath of Office, using President Lincoln’s Inaugural Bible, administered by the Chief Justice of the United States, the Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.
  • Inaugural Address
  • Poem: Elizabeth Alexander
  • Benediction: The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery
  • The National Anthem: The United States Navy Band “Sea Chanters”
  • President Obama to escort outgoing President George W. Bush in a departure ceremony
  • Luncheon for the new president at the Capitol’s Statuary Hall
  • 56th Inaugural Parade from the Capitol to the White House
  • Presidential Inaugural Committee to host ten official inaugural balls

He will be sworn in using the Bible used by Abraham Lincoln. What passage will he chose to be sworn in on? Read the history of previous presidents' picks here.

Photo by Michaela McNichol/Library of Congress

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Rosenblat's lie

See my new post about the lie perpetuated by Herman Rosenblat about meeting his wife while in a concentration camp during the Holocaust: