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Archive for November, 2013

Sibling Rivalry

Dispute Over Gay Marriage Erupts in Cheney Family

FacebEd Reinke/Associated PressDick Cheney with his daughters, Mary Cheney, left, and Liz, at the Republican National Convention in 2000.

Updated, 10:09 p.m. | WASHINGTON — They were the towheaded sisters who tagged along on campaigns, polite and smiling, as their father rose through Wyoming and then Washington politics to become one of the most powerful men in the country.

“We were as close as sisters can be,” recalled Mary Cheney of her relationship with her older sister, Liz.

But now, a feud between the two has spilled into public view, involving social media, an angry same-sex spouse, a high-profile election and a father who feels uncomfortably caught between his two children.

The situation has deteriorated so much that the two sisters have not spoken since the summer, and the quarrel threatens to get in the way of something former Vice President Dick Cheney desperately wants — a United States Senate seat for Liz.

Things erupted on Sunday when Mary Cheney, a lesbian, and her wife were at home watching “Fox News Sunday” — their usual weekend ritual. Liz Cheney appeared on the show and said that she opposed same-sex marriage, describing it as “just an area where we disagree,” referring to her sister. Taken aback and hurt, Mary Cheney took to her Facebook page to blast back: “Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history.”

But then Mary Cheney’s wife, Heather Poe, went further, touching on Liz Cheney’s relocation from Northern Virginia to Wyoming to seek office. (Liz Cheney is already battling accusations of carpetbagging in the race.)

“I can’t help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other,” Ms. Poe wrote on her Facebook page. “Yes, Liz,” she added, “in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law.”

The feud reveals tensions not just within the family but in the Republican Party more broadly as it seeks to respond to both a changing America and an energized, fervently conservative base.

Indeed, while Liz Cheney seeks to make clear her opposition to same-sex marriage, her father more than a decade ago was able to embrace fairly moderate views on the subject, breaking publicly with President George W. Bush over Mr. Bush’s support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He has gone further still since then, telling Barbara Walters in 2011, “I certainly don’t have any problem with” same-sex marriage.

But Ms. Cheney, in her bid to defeat Republican Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, is running to his right and seeking to capture conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts.

Matt Young/Associated PressLiz Cheney at a campaign appearance in July.

Liz Cheney on Sunday declined to directly address the remarks from her sister and sister-in-law, but said in an email: “I love my sister and her family and have always tried to be compassionate towards them. I believe that is the Christian way to behave.”

People who have spoken to Liz Cheney say she is irritated that her sister is making their dispute public and believes it is hypocritical for Mary Cheney to take such a hard line now, given that she worked for the re-election of President Bush, an opponent of same-sex marriage.

The relationship between the two sisters used to be quite different. The daughters drew especially close when their father ran as Mr. Bush’s running mate in 2000 and eventually became a figure of great controversy and enormous power as vice president. After Mr. Cheney left office in 2009, politically bruised and physically ailing, the sisters, who lived 15 minutes apart in Washington’s tony Northern Virginia suburbs, would join their parents for a standing Sunday dinner at Liz’s house in McLean each week, along with their families, including Ms. Poe.

Mary Cheney, 44, said in a phone interview Sunday that she presumed her sister shared her father’s views on marriage, and that view was reinforced because Liz Cheney “was always very supportive” of her relationship with Ms. Poe and the couple’s two children. She learned otherwise in August when Liz Cheney declared, shortly after announcing her Senate candidacy, that she was opposed to same-sex marriage rights. Mary Cheney said it is now “impossible” for the sisters to reconcile as long as Liz Cheney maintains that position.

“What amazes me is that she says she’s running to be a new generation of leader,” Mary Cheney said, citing her 47-year-old sister’s slogan in her campaign against Mr. Enzi, 69. “I’m not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that.”

Mary Cheney said it was her wife’s idea for the couple to take to Facebook to respond to Liz’s televised remarks. Ms. Poe seemed especially hurt that her sister-in-law had acted so embracing toward them in private, and then took this public position.

“Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 — she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us,” Ms. Poe wrote. “To have her say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.”

In the interview, Mary Cheney, who is a longtime political consultant, said she would continue to raise the matter. Reminded by a reporter that such criticism could complicate her sister’s Senate campaign, Mary Cheney offered a clipped answer reminiscent of her father’s terse style. “O.K.,” she said, before letting silence fill the air.

It is not the substance of the issue that could hurt Liz Cheney in Wyoming — her opponent also opposes same-sex marriage. But the ugly family drama and questions about what Liz Cheney truly believes could reinforce questions about her authenticity in a place where many voters have met their politicians in person and are already skeptical of an outsider like Ms. Cheney, who has lived elsewhere for much of her life. Ms. Cheney’s first ad, which she released last week, was devoted entirely to emphasizing her family’s Wyoming roots.

Wyoming, a sprawling but sparsely populated state, has rarely seen such high-profile primaries, and this one has already featured an ugly Cheney family episode: After former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, a longtime friend of the family who served with Mr. Cheney in the state’s congressional delegation, fretted to The New York Times this summer about how Liz Cheney’s challenge of Mr. Enzi would be divisive among the state’s Republicans, Lynne Cheney, the sisters’ mother and Mr. Cheney’s wife, confronted him at a charity event and told him to “just shut up” — three times, Mr. Simpson claimed. When Lynne Cheney later said that the exchange never happened, Mr. Simpson called her denial “a damn baldfaced lie.”

The former vice president is active and visible in his daughter’s Senate bid and this Wednesday, he will join her in Denver for a fund-raiser to benefit her campaign. Early polls show Liz Cheney trailing Mr. Enzi, but her fund-raising since declaring her candidacy has been robust.

As for Mary Cheney, she said that when she gets together with her parents these days, they know which subjects not to bring up. “They come over for dinner and we don’t talk about Liz or the race,” she said. “There is so much more to talk about.”

The Cheneys have tried to be “as neutral as they can,” added Mary Cheney, who just returned from a pheasant hunting trip with her father in South Dakota. “My parents are stuck in an awful position.”

As for the coming holidays, Mary Cheney said that her parents will come to her and Ms. Poe’s Northern Virginia home for Thanksgiving and that she assumed her older sister would be in Wyoming.

At Christmas, the whole Cheney clan will head to the Jackson Hole area in Wyoming, where Liz Cheney now lives. But Mary Cheney said of her sister, “I will not be seeing her.”

A version of this article appears in print on 11/18/2013, on page A1 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Cheney Sisters In Public Feud Over Marriage.

How to Buy Insurance / Jim Gallager

 By JIM GALLAGHER 314-340-8390

The American system of medical care works OK. But the system of financing it is a shamefully wasteful, convoluted, confusing, horribly expensive mess.

Many of us are running head on into that mess this fall. So, here’s a guide to choosing a health plan, designed for newbies and people who haven’t paid much attention up to now.

Most of us have decisions to make. The Obamacare exchanges, once debugged, will try to scoop up many of the 15 percent of Americans with no coverage at all. Lots of other people with individual health policies that don’t meet the Obamacare standards will be shopping for new ones.

Most of the rest of us will run into open enrollment for our company health plans and for Medicare.

The Obamacare exchanges, and most employers, offer plans with varying premiums. Generally speaking, the lower the premiums, the higher the deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance. (If those terms seem like Greek to you, look at the glossary accompanying this column.)

Choosing means betting on your family’s health. Consider how much care you’ve needed over the past couple of years, says Doug Simms, an independent health insurance consultant with the Meyer Group in Crestwood. Use that as a guide going forward.

If you’re a “young immortal” (male or female between 18 and 29), the chances are you can live with a high-deductible plan. If you catch the flu, you might pay $150 for a doctor visit. But you’ll save more than that on the lower monthly premiums for a high-deductible plan. (Preventive care is free under all plans.)

If you get a plan with a deductible of at least $1,250 for self-only coverage or $2,500 for family coverage, you’re likely eligible for a health savings account. You put before-tax money into the account, and it’s tax-free forever if you use it for health care. If you save more than you spend, it becomes something like a retirement plan. Those over 65 use it to pay their Medicare premiums.

If you use it for something besides health care, you’ll pay taxes and, if you’re under age 65, a penalty to boot.


Simms thinks the accounts are a good deal for healthy people, especially those with nice bank accounts. His own coverage has a $3,000 deductible, and a health savings account.

Some young immortals get pregnant. If you are contemplating reproducing, the low-deductible plan is best. Ditto if you’re planning some other expensive procedure. Moms-to-be might also consider a short-term disability insurance plan, says Simms. If you get it before pregnancy, it will pay you during part of your recovery.

Next, consider that you might get hit by a bus. While you’re laid up in the hospital, the gnomes in accounting will be adding very big numbers to your bill. Karen Pollitz can tell you all about that. She’s a senior fellow and health care expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

She also is the mom of a skateboarder. At age 21, her son hit a pothole, went flying and broke his wrist. “The bill was $25,000. That was more than he was earning in a year,” she said.

Luckily, he was still under her health insurance. (Children under 26 can enroll under a parent’s employer’s health plan.)

Look at the deductible. That’s what you’ll pay each year before insurance kicks in. (The monthly premium is extra.)

Just as important, look at the “maximum out-of-pocket” expense in your health plan. That, plus your monthly premium, is the most you’ll pay in a year for medical care no matter how sick or banged up you get. Once you’ve met it, you’re covered 100 percent as long as you stay in your plan’s provider network. A caveat: Some insurers don’t count your deductible, or all of your co-insurance and co-payments, toward this limit.

High-deductible plans have out-of-pocket maximums as high as $6,000. Could you pay that if you had to? Consider that hospitals often offer payment plans before they sic the collectors on you and wreck your credit. You might not have to pay it all at once.

A basic principal of insurance is that you buy it for unlikely mishaps you can’t afford. So, pick a plan with a maximum out-of-pocket that you can handle, even if you have to pay over time.

The monthly premium is the big concern for most shoppers, says Carrie McLean, who runs customer service, a private shopping site. So, lots of them will end up with deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums that they really can’t afford. “They really don’t have $6,000 in the bank to turn over to the hospital.”

Most people without insurance will qualify for a subsidy through the Obamacare exchanges. In fact, the high-deductible plan will be free for many of them. The online system is still broken, but you can apply by phone at 1-800-318-2596. The Kaiser Family Foundation ( has anonline calculator to estimate your subsidy.

You can apply for the subsidy and choose a plan through, but the firm can’t close the deal until the federal system is fully functioning.

Make sure to take a look at the maximums both for in-and-out of network providers.

Pollitz has a horror story for that, too. Her husband came down with pneumonia and spent a week in the hospital. The hospital was in her insurer’s network, but the shocker came with the doctors’ bills. “Not one of them was in our plan network,” she said. The doctors alone ran up $12,000 in charges.

So, you may think you’re in-network when you’re really out. A provider who’s in this year may be out next year.

What’s a network? Insurers work out discount deals with medical providers. Choose a provider in your plan’s network, and you’ll get the low price. Go outside and you’ll pay a lot more out of pocket. And that extra you pay usually won’t count toward the out-of-pocket maximum.

This gets us to a side benefit of having insurance. If you’re covered, you get the benefit of those in-network discounts on the bills you pay yourself. If you’re not insured, you’ll get no discount.

That’s right. It’s a symptom of our system’s insanity that medical providers demand much higher payments from the uninsured — who are often near poverty — than they charge to insurers and their clients.

Take a look at the doctors and hospitals in the insurer’s network. Is your doctor in it? Is there a hospital nearby? If not, perhaps you should pick another plan.

Some insurers have been cutting the more expensive providers out of their networks. Anthem Blue Cross cut BJC, the St. Louis region’s biggest hospital operator, out of its network for health plans for individuals.

How important is that big network? “It depends on where you live,” Simms says. “If you live in Ste. Genevieve, the likelihood that you’ll need the Barnes network is small.”

Insurers in the Obamacare exchanges have to offer networks capable of meeting patients’ medical needs as defined by Uncle Sam.

Some forms of insurance, mainly HMOs, put some restrictions on your ability to see specialists, even those in the network. More on that in our glossary.

Finally, all plans will cover prescription drugs, but some charge more than others. If you regularly take a drug, ask how much the plan charges for it before signing up, McLean says. And check to see if there is an out-of-pocket maximum for drugs that is separate from medical care.

Jim Gallagher is a reporter at the Post-Dispatch

Apols (Short for Apologies) and Other Words / Debbie Baldwin of Ladue News

By Debbie Baldwin

You may find this difficult to believe, but 2013 is winding to a close. That’s right. There are just two awkward family functions, one parent-teacher conference, one fight over a space in the mall parking lot, six holiday parties, three vicious hangovers and a partridge in a pear tree remaining, and it’s over. It’s also time for another end-of-year tradition: the Oxford Dictionaries Online online list of new words. Much like the technology to which many of them refer, I don’t know how long some of these will be around. Nevertheless, the distinguished people at Oxford seem to feel they are worthy of an entry. As a service to our readers, I will use each word in a sentence…and also because my children bet me that I couldn’t.

apols (short for apologies)

No, I’m not coming to your rave, you hipster idiot, apols.

babymoon (a holiday for parents-to-be to relax and focus on establishing a bond with the baby.)

It was during my babymoon on the quiet beach of Tortola that I realized bonding with an unborn child is stupid, I look horrible in a bikini, and I want to kill my husband for doing this to me.

bitcoin (digital currency)

Shall I pay you with bitcoins, glass beads, an IOU or jellybeans?

cake pop (a small, round iced ball of cake on a stick)

Cake pops are stupid.

emoji (a small digital icon depicting emotion, usually at the conclusion of a communiqué)

OMG, I know Channing isn’t ending it for reals bc when he said I disgusted him he put a winking smiley emoji at the end of the text.

twerk (a dance move involving a repeated vertical shaking of the rear end in a squatting stance)

Please don’t twerk.

jorts (denim shorts; to be clear, these are not cut-offs or Daisy Dukes, they are longer, tailored denim shorts)

Jorts are a deal-breaker.

Internet of things (an advancement of the Internet which allows everyday objects to have network connectivity)

Apple came out with the Internet of things in 2017, and the world promptly ended.

selfie (a photo of yourself taken with your phone)

Jane had everything going for her until her idiot selfie with incriminating items in the background got her kicked out of school, rejected from all colleges and ruined her life.

So that’s just a few of what’s new at the wordsmith shop. Just once, I wish they’d publish a list of the words they are dropping, like groovy, swell, foxy and economic stability. Well, enjoy your new vocab; although after you incorporate them, you may need to employ another new entry: a digital detox.



Lumberjackie Soup /

From a segment called, “Smart Choices.” 

Yields: 21 cups

7 1/2 cups chopped rutabaga
6 cups chopped carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms
18 cups water
2 cups cooked chickpeas (roast for 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees)
5 teaspoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 cup organic Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 low-sodium vegetable bullion cubes
6 cups fresh spinach

Place all ingredients except spinach in a slow cooker. Cook for approximately 6 hours until rutabaga and carrots are soft. Add spinach, allow to cook down, and stir to incorporate into soup.

Recipe courtesy of Lauren Hooks of Lithe Foods

Explaining Gridlock

Source: National Journal 



This Is What Congressional Gridlock Looks Like in 1 Chart

By  and Ella Krivitchenko
November 13, 2013

If you’re looking for a quick fact to explain congressional gridlock, it’s this: In the 113th Congress, only 59 members have voted with the majority of their party less than 90 percent of the time (20 Republicans and 39 Democrats).

The trend over the last 30 years is that Congress has become increasingly sorted into political blocs that vote only with each other. According to National Journal’s vote ratings, 30 years ago most lawmakers had records that put them somewhere in between the most liberal Republican and the most conservative Democrat. Now there are just a relative handful.

As you can clearly see in this chart of the 113th Congress House votes, most representatives vote with the majority of their party (data viaOpenCongress). That lonely blue dot at the bottom is Jim Matheson of Utah, a Democrat, who represents a conservative district.

House Members by Percentage of Votes With Respective Party Majority
Roll over a circle for more information or click and drag on the chart to zoom into a specific area.


Download this graphic and more at National Journal’s Presentation Center.

Just the Facts on Healthcare Reform

1) 20 years is too long to figure out that it is time for a different approach. The National Task Force on Healthcare Reform, which Hillary Clinton headed, convened in 1993. The Republicans revolted in 1994. Fast track 20 years to October, 2013 when House Republicans tried to shut down the government in hopes of an outright repeal of Obamacare, now law. If our goal is to improve access and bring down spiraling costs, we need to work together.  

2) According to MSNBC today, HHS just released figures showing 106,000 people have signed up for the Affordable Care Act. For now, 15% or 48 million Americans remain uninsured. 

3) 4.8 million have had their policies cancelled, according to Many of them are middle class folks who were happy with their plans. They were told they would get to keep their policies if they liked them. But now, the government is talking about offering them a “premium boost” funded by taxpayers. Remember the Harry and Louise ads about that befuddled middle class couple who thought their options under the reworked federal health insurance plan were too complex. Turns out they might be. 

4)  Some states are having more success with their exchanges than others. Connecticut has signed up more customers than any other state. Oregon hasn’t signed up 1. Both were among the 14 states plus Washington, DC that decided to run all aspects of their exchanges. 

5) States have the option to implement the exchanges in ways they see fit. Utah decided to serve small businesses while leaving individual coverage to the Feds. Idaho and New Mexico opted to use the Feds’ information technology infrastructure (navigators, websites and call centers) while managing the actual healthcare coverage themselves.  

6) Experts from Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that Americans would be divided between applying for private health insurance through the exchanges or defaulting to Medicaid. According to news reports, in some places, 9 out of 10 enrollees have opted for Medicaid instead of buying private insurance.

7) The current crisis isn’t over a faulty website. It is where the money is going to come from for all those new Medicaid patients. The Feds offered to pay for it through 2016 but that was based on healthy people signing up for Obamacare to offset the addition of lower income citizens with few options, like uninsured children, those with pre-existing conditions and the disabled.  




Yes, Virginia, Moderates Matter!

This is a repeat headline. We first used it on this site in December, 2011 when Nate Silver, covering the Republican race for its party’s nomination, wrote, “Yes, Virginia, there are still moderate Republicans out there. Not as many as there used to be, but enough that they will constitute perhaps one-third of the Republican primary electorate.”  

It was a reference to 8 year old Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter to the editor of New York’s Sun newspaper asking if there is a Santa Claus. Virginia’s friends had been telling her there was no Santa Claus. Her father said, “If you see it in the Sun, it’s true, Virginia.” According to, the Sun’s editor, Francis Pharcellus Church, wrote back to Virginia, telling her her friends were “wrong and that they had been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.” 

Fast track to Nov. 5, 2013 and the state of Virginia. The skeptics in the Republican Party were wrong. They allowed themselves to be railroaded by a small faction of naysayers who ignored what the people of that state wanted.  Job creation coupled with increasing tolerance on social issues. And as a result, the Tea Party candidate, Ken Cucinelli, got run over by a train filled with voters who are more moderate than their experts and consultants would have led all of us to believe.  It was like 2012 all over again. 

But, a different story is unfolding in New Jersey. Where that blustery and blunt but ever-pragmatic, finger wagging, unlikely Pol, Republican Gov. Christie, just got re-elected in a state that has more Democrats than Republicans. A state where money is now pouring in to thwart his agenda. He got re-elected because he likes people and can work across the aisle. But the real test is still in front of him, a test that will determine whether Christie has what it takes to pin down Washington’s spending problem. If he does, he could be the party’s next Presidential candidate. Actually, if he can hold together his bi-partisan support, especially as he tries to reform the state’s pension program, he will likely be the country’s next Republican President.


ENDA lot of Discrimination

What an interesting day it has been for someone who considers herself pro-business and pro-gay. For someone who opposed Obamacare because it is a mandate but also because of its unsustainable long term cost, not just to business, but to the Federal government.

How do you reconcile being a pro-gay Republican on a day when historic legislation is winding its way through Congress outlawing discrimination, not just against gays but also bi-sexuals and transgenders? Federal law already bans discrimination based on race and sex. But what about sexuality? This is as bedroom as bedroom politics gets. It’s also a great test of whether social issues are still clouding our judgement when it comes to issues that are ultimately economic. 

Speaker John Boehner has announced he cannot support The Employment Non Discriminaton Act because it will lead to frivolous lawsuits. The United States Chamber of Commerce has taken a neutral position, which to the LGBT community, is tantamount to a victory.  Do we need federal laws to ban workplace discrimination against the LGBT community when 90% of companies already have discrimination policies in place? Yes, we do. It’s a question of doing the right thing. And as far as arguments that it could lead to more charges of workplace discrimination, it might be useful to consider that there were only 100,000 charges of workplace discrimination based on gender or racial bias brought before the EEOC last year. 

I say this is a case, once again, of business trumping politics and a reason that we need more business minded candidates to run for office. Businesses are looking for quality employees to help grow our economy. And protections like these are designed to make employees comfortable. This law is akin to hanging a welcome sign on the front of your house. The law would essentially say, “Yes, LGBT employees, it is safe to work here.” Remember we’re talking about WORKING. 

One interesting eventuality of this law’s passage is that it will force people to consider the laws in their own states. Because while polls overwhelmingly show a majority of Americans support this kind of legal protection, 29 states including Missouri, have avoided writing workplace protections in to their state statutes. According to, nearly three-quarters of American voters support protecting people from workplace discrimination. It might not surprise you that 81 percent of Democrats support ENDA but it could surprise you that 66 percent of Republican voters polled, did too. 

I’ve blogged in the past about the fact that I think the question of equal pay for equal work is a no-brainer. But, the fact is Phyllis Schlafly was right about whether it falls under the scope of federal legislation. It falls squarely inside the realm of a negotiable item between an individual employee and her employer. Because the fact is many modern women would rather trade time with children or ailing relatives for equal pay.

This law is different, though. This law is simply asking for protection from being fired because you are something other than straight. And that seems pretty straightforward to me.  


Acorn Squash with Apples from

Original recipe makes 6 servingsChange Servings

  • 1 acorn squash

  1. To easily peel the acorn squash without losing a lot of vegetable, gently drop the squash in a large pot of boiling water, and boil for 15 minutes. Pour off the boiling water and fill with cold water and let sit 5 minutes to cool. When cool enough to handle, use a knife to slice off the peel on the ridges and use a teaspoon to dig out the peel in the valleys. Slice the squash in half and remove the seeds and stem. Then slice the halves into sections and finally cut into 1 inch chunks.
  2. Place the squash chunks into a large microwave-safe bowl along with the apples. Dot with pieces of butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar, walnuts, salt and cinnamon over the top. Cover with plastic wrap, and poke a few holes in it for ventilation.
  3. Cook in the microwave for 7 1/2 minutes on full power. Remove, uncover, and stir. Return to the microwave, and cook for another 7 1/2 minutes on full power, until tender. Serve hot.

Kitchen-Friendly View

  • PREP20 mins
  • COOK15 mins
  • READY IN35 mins
  • Variations
  • You could use butternut squash for variety. Pecans work well in this recipe instead of walnuts. Honey or maple syrup can used with or instead of the brown sugar.
  • If you prefer roasted squash, you can place this (uncovered) in the oven at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for just under an hour. But be sure to add 1/4 cup of water to the recipe before baking.

Halloween and Obamacare: Trick or Treat?


By M.W. Guzy, special to the Beacon

6:34 am on Thu, 10.31.13

When I was a kid, Halloween was the day we gave thanks for attending Catholic school. Because the day after is All Saint’s Day in church liturgy, we were off for a holy day of obligation while our public-school counterparts attended classes as usual after a night of trick or treating. (Suckers.)

Of course, back then Halloween was the province of children. By the time you were old enough for junior high, you were expected to hang up your costume and act your age. You might escort younger siblings around the neighborhood or help your parents hand out candy, but your days of door to door marauding were over.

Today, all that has changed. Reflecting the fashionable “All Mardi Gras – No Lent” approach to life, church attendance has dwindled while Halloween has morphed into a major commercial holiday celebrated by people of all ages. Fewer people worship on All Saints’ but far more party on its eve.

From a societal perspective, the problem with our collective Peter Pan pledge to never grow up is that we’re fast running out of adults to provide the treats. This, I suspect, is the emergent problem with Obamacare.

The disastrous first effort to fully implement the Affordable Care Act — often referred to as the plan’s “roll-out” — was mitigated by a strange miscegenation of Republican stupidity and Democratic incompetence.

The Republicans, you’ll recall, recently decided to shut down the government. The last time they tried that trick, they were treated to the re-election of Bill Clinton. Reluctant to learn from experience, they decided to stick their hand back in the fire to see if it was still hot. Not surprisingly, they again got burnt.

Ironically, the casus belli for the GOP stunt was the effort to de-fund Obamacare. Not only did they fail in that endeavor but the outrage they engendered managed to divert public attention from the shocking ineptitude displayed by the administration during the program’s initiation.

Having spent three years and hundreds of millions of dollars in preparation, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius unveiled an enrollment website on Oct. 1 that people found difficult to use because it didn’t work. Luckily for the Dems, most people were too busy cursing Republicans to take much notice.

Eventually, of course, the government resumed full operations and public attention shifted to deficiencies in the Obamacare roll-out. The computer problems actually may have provided a hidden benefit for Democrats by delaying access to the plan. It seems the hardy souls who negotiated the hurdles of the website and got to the substance of the program often didn’t like what they found there.

I heard two different case histories reported as examples of the challenges of implementing the new venture. Both are admittedly anecdotal and thus not necessarily representative of the experience of others. Consider them parables illustrating the tricks and treats of health-care reform.

CNN interviewed a woman who’d spent three weeks trying to enroll on-line. She attempted to log in at midnight when she hoped most of her fellow citizens would be asleep; she tried during morning and evening rush hours when she thought most people would be commuting.

It was never explained why she didn’t enroll by phone but she did ultimately succeed in buying health insurance through the website for herself and her daughter. This victory was more than symbolic because both women suffered from pre-existing medical conditions that had previously precluded private insurance and their medical bills had driven their household into bankruptcy. For her, Obamacare — its shortcomings notwithstanding — represented salvation. She advises that, with her worries about medical bills allayed, she can now sleep at night.

CBS reported the story of a 56-year-old Florida woman who had a less happy ending. She currently has health insurance that she feels is adequate to her needs. Her contribution for the coverage is $54 a month.

She thought the president had guaranteed that persons who were happy with their insurance could keep it. Now, she learns that her satisfaction is not enough — the president has to like her policy as well.

Her insurer recently notified her that the current policy doesn’t satisfy the criteria of Obamacare. Among its deficiencies is its failure to provide birth control and maternity benefits. Effective Jan. 1, her monthly premiums will increase to $591 for better coverage.

That’s an annual increase of $6,444 — but the post-menopausal woman will have access to free contraceptives and full pregnancy care. She understands that she may be eligible for some kind of tax credit but states she can’t afford the extra $537 a month to continue coverage in the meantime.

With the control of the Congress at stake, you’ll hear a lot stories like these during the coming off-year election season. It is estimated that about 15 percent of Americans lack adequate health-care coverage without Obamacare. But that leaves 85 percent of the population who are presently fairly comfortable without it.

Most of the insured receive coverage through their employers. Paradoxically, the new law charges employers a head tax for each employee and employee dependant they cover. The government will thus penalize the businesses that provide most of the nation’s health care for doing so. Proceeds from the tax will be used to offset the increased cost of insuring applicants with pre-existing medical conditions.

The employer will then be responsible for insuring himself, his family, his employees, their families and for paying a bonus to insurance companies for selling their product to people they don’t want to cover in the first place.  Sounds fair to me…

Democrats have about a year to convince insured Americans that Obamacare provides better treatment than they receive at present. All things considered, that sales job could be a tricky proposition.