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After Health Care Loss, What’s Next for a Divided Republican Congress?

Political parties often have moments of introspection after an electoral defeat but now House Republicans are experiencing one following a stinging legislative bruising.

GOP members regrouped in Washington Monday still raw after a bitter loss in their high-profile attempt to repeal and replace a health care law they have spent more than seven years fighting. There they continued to point fingers over who was to blame for the bill’s failure and to face the reality of how the episode might impact their aggressive legislative agenda going forward.

Some Republicans are rethinking any previous plans to pass a Republican agenda with just GOP votes, saying that it’s not possible in a House of Representatives with a caucus so ideologically diverse and a conservative faction so opposed to government that they vote against most attempts at legislating.

That was the recipe that scuttled health care.

“You can’t do anything that’s big and controversial that is going to require Republican votes,” said Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Florida, an ally of Republican leadership. “The reality is we don’t have 218 Republican votes. We don’t.”

The number 218 is the number of votes needed to pass legislation (when all House seats are filled.) Republicans hold 237 seats but last week’s implosion of the health care legislation made some members realize that two dozen Republican votes potentially aren’t reliable.

Related: After Health Care Defeat, Trump’s Two Options Are Bad and Worse

The next major legislative goal after repealing the Affordable Care Act is tax reform and coming up in April is must-pass government funding for the rest of 2017. Both are big items in the Republican must-pass and wish-to-pass agenda.

If a funding bill isn’t passed, the government would shut down. And tax reform is so complex that the last time Congress passed major changes to the tax code was more than 30 years ago.

Such hard questions have only been made more complicated since the party was unable to pass its signature legislation — the repeal of Obamacare — because moderate and conservatives were too far apart and Trump and leadership were unable to bring enough votes to the table.

The original plan was to pass health care repeal and tax reform under a process called reconciliation. The reason is because under reconciliation, only a simple majority is needed in the Senate, and with a simple majority, only Republicans are needed for passage. But after the House failed to pass health care under reconciliation requirements, some members are suggesting to let go of the plan to pass tax reform under reconciliation.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said reconciliation for tax reform should be “re-examined.”

“If you’re doing that, you’re saying you can do that with all Republican votes and dealing the Democrats out from the beginning. That’s fine as long as you’re sure you can get those votes, but nothing I’ve seen so far assures me of that,” Cole said.

When asked about the possibility of a “revolt” if Republicans work with Democrats instead of trying to bring along their most conservative members, Cole said, “I’m sorry, we had a revolt without a bipartisan approach.”

One issue likely to complicate government funding is money for Planned Parenthood. Conservatives intent on defunding it have been willing to bring the government to a brink of a government shutdown under a Democratic president. Some Republicans worry that the same group would be willing to do the same under a Republican president, something Cole called “stupid.”

On tax reform, one component that signifies how difficult it could be to pass is the border adjustability tax, which is a tax on any good or product brought into the U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan says it will incentivize companies to manufacture products in the U.S. to avoid the tax, but President Donald Trump has given mixed messages on his support. And many Republicans in the Senate have been strongly opposed, saying it would start a trade war.

Rep. Mike Coffman, who represents a swing district in Colorado, blamed the House Freedom Caucus as well for the failure of health care, but said that tax reform would be ideologically easier, except the health care flap has made it more difficult.

“I think tax reform is easier to do but not having this done makes it harder to do,” Coffman said. “It’s a momentum issue. The fact is you came out of the fact and you stumbled. I think it slows the momentum and makes it harder.”

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who just rescinded his membership to the conservative House Freedom Caucus over the weekend because of their dogmatic approach to legislating, said tax reform is going to be difficult.

“I think that is going to be more difficult to change the tax structure of the country than replacing and repealing Obamacare,” Poe said on CNN, adding that the conservatives are going to be inclined to vote against Republican priorities.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y. and one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies in Congress, insists that tax reform will be far easier than health care.

“The issues surrounding tax reform are easier,” Collins said. “They are not as emotionally charged as the health care debate.”

But Collins also admitted that tax reform might not be as comprehensive anticipated.

“We’ll get tax reform. Maybe not as quite as grand as we’ve hoped for,” he said.

One option is to work with Democrats instead of relying on just Republicans to pass legislation, which is what moderate Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania suggested, which is why he says Republicans should take up infrastructure reform before tax reform.

“It seems like there will be a little bit of a pivot right now from healthcare to something else. If they asked my opinion, I would tell them, they should pivot to infrastructure,” Dent said. “Why? Because I think it is easier to assemble a bipartisan coalition to do infrastructure than tax reform.”

Many Republicans aren’t as interested in infrastructure as they are in taxes, especially with Trump’s proposed $1 billion price tag. Infrastructure wasn’t in Speaker Ryan’s priority list of agenda items, but it was added at the insistence of the president who campaigned on rebuilding roads, bridges, trains and airports.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., one of the most hardline members of the Freedom Caucus who was punished by previous House Speaker John Boehner for his unwillingness to cooperate with the party, dismissed the idea that conservatives are going to make tax reform more difficult.

“We can do tax reform. Nothing’s impossible. We can do anything that’s allowed under our Constitution,” he said. “We can move forward and work on these issues with the American people.”

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White House Opens Door to Democrats in Wake of Health-Bill Failure

WASHINGTON—The White House sent a warning shot to congressional Republicans that it may increase its outreach to Democrats if it can’t get the support of hard-line conservatives, a potential shift in legislative strategy that could affect drug prices, the future of a tax overhaul and budgetary priorities.

Days after the House GOP health bill collapsed due to a lack of support from Republicans, White House Chief of Staff Reince…

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Trump’s biggest mistake in health care failure

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Donald Trump

Maybe it’s a coincidence. But the first full business day after the GOP health insurance bill failed in Congress, the White House announced a new team to revamp the federal bureaucracy by using efficient business strategies.

That’s encouraging, because President Trump, who promised to run the country using his business smarts, fumbled the Obamacare replacement bill just like the same old partisan politicians we’ve endured for decades.

Now that Trump has learned the hard way that the phrase “this is the way Washington works” is an oxymoron, perhaps it can go forward with more confidence than ever in its own independence.

But how can the White House move forward on health care? There are many ways approaching that issue like a business person could actually succeed. Let’s look at the top five:

1) Demand? Meet supply

All business operates in the basic law of supply and demand. Government doesn’t. The first and biggest mistake politicians have been making about health policy is they continue to conflate the demand for health care with the demand for health insurance. This is no accident as politicians can really only win quick political points and grab big campaign donations if they focus on working with the existing insurance companies.

By contrast, any decent business person would simply look at the situation in the health care market and see that increasing supply via innovation and other methods are the obvious ways to lower costs and improve access and quality. That’s priority 1 because even if there were a bill that would give everyone in America great insurance coverage, it won’t be worth a dime if there aren’t enough doctors and hospitals and drugs to treat all these newly-covered patients.

2) Pricing, Pricing, Pricing

There are few things more vital to the legitimate business world than pricing transparency. That’s what makes people watch those stock tickers religiously during stock trading hours. But a clear and strong law forcing total health care price transparency didn’t make it into the GOP Obamacare replacement bill. And that’s a shame because if patients truly knew the real costs and the options they had every time they consider or are told to get a medical procedure, prices would go down. That’s a basic economic fact.

3)  Subsidies? We don’t need no stinking subsidies!

Imagine if the local electronics retailer sold flat screen TV’s at different prices to different people, depending on their income. Ridiculous. But in the political world, it makes obscene sense to sell health insurance as if supply were no issue and give out lots of subsidies in order to spread the political patronage around as much as possible.

Business people know that every seller charging the same price to any and all comers is the best way to spur more supply, more competition, and better quality. That’s why flat screen TV’s are better and cheaper with every passing year. And the opposite is why health care and health insurance are more expensive every year. Subsidies skew the system in favor of political concerns.

4) Choice, choice, choice

Only the highest end auto dealers sell super expensive cars with all the amenities with no other choices for consumers. Everyone else offers buyers the chance to pay more for more and less for less in their chosen car. And they do that to make sure they have something everyone in the marketplace could want. Politicians don’t have to do that, so Obamacare and the original form of the GOP replacement bill forced everyone to buy health insurance plans loaded with the same “essential benefits” for everyone.

And the old style “major medical” plans that the Affordable Care Act outlawed were still not resurrected by the Republican plan even in its final form. And that’s because politicians from both parties don’t want to face any backlash from any voters who may protest having to, (gasp!), pay more for more services. But the idea of having to pay more for more is a given in the marketplace and that’s just one reason why the marketplace is better than the political world.

5)  Stop bundling and go a la carte

The rise of Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, etc. has taught the cable industry a hard lesson about just how much the public dislikes paying for channels and entertainment it doesn’t want just to get the channels and entertainment it does want. The “cut the cord” movement is all about fighting back against that bundling in your cable bill and it’s a creation of the free market through and through.

Politicians haven’t learned that lesson when it comes to health bills or really any bills for that matter. Every bill is jammed with fine print and added entries that simply wouldn’t stand a chance of passage if they were examined and voted on as single items.

A good business approach would be to strip the massive health bill and other bills like it into smaller pieces that could at least be turned into “sales” much more easily. The political class likes big omnibus bills because it helps indemnify them from individual criticism and helps them avoid having to actually work with the public any more than necessary. Good business people know that the only way to succeed is never to lose that kind of connection with their customers and potential customers.

Speaking of that political disconnect versus what we see in successful businesses, there’s a real snobbery and falsity to the political class argument about how government functions. Their point is to “ensure” us that governing is so complicated that it really should be left to the experienced bureaucrats. The truth is the only complicated thing about it is the cowardly nature of the political class and its inability to govern properly.

Trump didn’t handle the health bill well, precisely because he let the political class from the GOP side handle it way too much. Trump should go more with his outsider gut, reject the nonsense of the political class, and get to work.

Commentary by Jake Novak, senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.


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After GOP Health Failure, Next Battle Could Shut Down Government

Republican leaders are eager to avoid a government shutdown but the demise of their Obamacare repeal could leave some conservatives spoiling for a fight that raises the odds of a standoff.

The House Freedom Caucus, which helped bring down the GOP health-care bill, says Republicans have yet to notch a significant victory, despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House. One top promise they and other conservatives had to hoped to deliver on with the Obamacare repeal was defunding Planned Parenthood over its provision of abortions.

Now, their next chance comes with a spending measure needed to keep the government operating after April 28, when current funding runs out. But Democrats, and some Republicans, strongly defend the group, which provides many health services to women. The battle, which nearly led to a shutdown in 2015, could be enough to set Congress on a path to another one.

“I’m very concerned and we are going to have to try and work in a bipartisan fashion,” Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said Monday.

How much leverage conservatives and the Freedom Caucus will have in future fights remains unclear. Any spending measure needs at least eight Democratic votes in the Senate to be enacted, and lawmakers on the Appropriations panels have been quietly negotiating a bipartisan spending plan to fund the government through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

QuickTake Obamacare Dodged a Bullet. What’s Next?

But conservatives, who defied personal pleas from President Donald Trump to back the Obamacare repeal bill, may feel emboldened to make demands on a stopgap, and could harangue GOP colleagues who cave in to Democratic demands. 

Trump, too, will be looking for legislative victories, which have so far been elusive. And given the sharp cuts he has proposed for non-defense spending, he may not have the same reservations as his predecessors about shutting down the government.

But John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, dismissed the idea. “There’s not going to be a shutdown,” he said. “No shutdowns.”

Signs of Turmoil

More broadly, the Republican dysfunction that killed Obamacare repeal could be a sign of more turmoil ahead in Congress for other GOP plans as well, including an ambitious tax overhaul, infrastructure spending and legislation to raise the nation’s debt limit.

The Challenges Facing Paul Ryan’s Tax Reform Plans

House GOP leaders will be relying in part on Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen to help sell a spending measure that can make it through the House. But Republicans are angry at the New Jersey Republican, according to a GOP aide, because he came out against the health-care bill Friday, hours away from the do-or-die vote. Angry lawmakers could take it out on his committee’s legislation, the aide said.

Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who sits on the appropriations panel, said GOP leaders should simply advance the measure currently being negotiated, ignore the Freedom Caucus and rely on Democratic help.

“I’m sorry but we had a revolt even when we didn’t do a bipartisan approach,” he said referring to the health-care bill. “The paramount thing is to get budget stability” and look ahead to fiscal 2018 spending.

“Republicans shutting down the government would be the most politically stupid thing you could do,” he said.

‘Total Control’

Another member of the appropriations committee, Representative Tom Rooney of Florida, says he hopes that Trump will give them “cover” from the Freedom Caucus, with the argument that it’s better to just get passed this funding deadline and move on.

“If we shut down the government when we have total control, I don’t know what to tell you,” he said.

QuickTake U.S. Budget Battles

The outcome could depend on how strongly Trump sticks to his demands. The president has asked for $30 billion in emergency spending for defense, along with $18 billion in offsetting cuts in non-defense spending. Both Republicans and Democrats have said those cuts are a nonstarter. And he also wants Congress to begin spending money on a border wall, even though Democrats are mostly opposed and Republican leaders aren’t in any hurry on that issue.

The congressional calendar also leaves no room for error. Lawmakers are scheduled for a two-week recess in April, leaving very little time before the funding deadline.

Planned Parenthood could still be the biggest sticking point, but some Republicans are sounding weary of conservatives’ demands on this issue.

“Don’t come to me and ask me to do that when you had your chance and you couldn’t put up the votes for that. ” Cole said, referring to the House Freedom Caucus blocking the Obamacare repeal bill.

Risks of a Showdown

And even some conservatives are showing signs they see risks in forcing a showdown on the funding bill, particularly because the legislation will need Democratic votes to pass the Senate. 

“We can stand here and beat each other to bloody dust and get nothing accomplished,” Representative Trent Franks of Arizona, one of the most strident opponents of abortion and Planned Parenthood, said Monday.

The White House also hasn’t articulated a clear position on the issue.

When pressed Monday on whether Trump would commit to pushing to defund the group in the upcoming spending bill, White House spokesman Sean Spicer wouldn’t say, explaining he didn’t want to “get ahead of our legislative strategy.”

Trump himself tweeted on Sunday, “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood Ocare!”

Democrats, still savoring the implosion of the Obamacare repeal effort, see little reason to give in to conservatives’ demands.

“Democrats continue to work in good faith to develop a bipartisan package that supports critical services and investments and rejects poison pill riders,” said Representative Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Room for a Deal

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, says he could see a deal where Democrats accept some emergency defense and border security spending in return for protection on undocumented immigrants who got protection under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“I do know eventually you gotta deal with these 800,000 kids. They’re going to start losing their legal status and I don’t think we as a party are going to pull them back into the shadows,” he said Monday. “I’m open minded about dealing with those kids in this package, but that’s just me.”

Indeed, while Trump has said he’s open to granting the so-called “Dreamers” some kind of protected status, several House conservatives have tried to terminate the program on previous spending bills.

‘Driving the Train’ on Taxes

Even if Republicans manage to avoid a shutdown, the Obamacare repeal incident has raised doubts, including at the White House, about the party’s ability to avoid a repeat on its next big priority: a tax overhaul.

“We’re driving the train on this,” said Spicer, signaling that Trump would take a more active role in the tax debate after delegating much of the health care tasks to Ryan.

But Spicer also said that administration — including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, economic adviser Gary Cohn and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — have yet to reach agreement on a tax plan. Still unclear is whether Trump will support Ryan’s plan, which includes a controversial proposal to replace the 35 percent corporate income tax with a 20 percent levy on U.S. companies domestic sales and imports. Exports would be excluded.

Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also have to decide whether to adopt a new fiscal 2018 budget resolution, which could be a difficult feat given conservatives’ demands that the budget needs to be balances within 10 years. They could also decide to reuse the existing fiscal 2017 resolution, which they had originally planned to use for Obamacare repeal.

The timing for tax legislation is also unclear. While Ryan is pressing to pass a bill by August, Senate leaders have also suggested it may take longer, and Spicer left open that possibility as well.

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When returning to Minnesota means sacrificing good health care

We didn’t have a car, or even a place to call our own. We moved in with my parents, and they took care of our daughter while we commuted to the Twin Cities for job interviews and apartment viewings.

It was a very uncertain time. And a bit scary to be honest. But you know what my biggest fear was? More than being unemployed or not having a place to live? The thing I fixated on late at night while I lay on the air mattress in my parents’ living room, awake and worrying about the future?

That my husband or daughter or I would get in a car accident. That one of us would have a medical emergency that would require an ambulance ride or an ER visit. That my daughter would develop a condition that required doctor’s visits and medication before my husband or I could secure employment with health care benefits.

I knew that without insurance, any of these scenarios would wipe out our meager savings and probably put us in debt for the rest of our lives. But we couldn’t afford insurance without the employer contribution. It was a classic catch-22.

For seven out of our 10 years overseas, my husband and I lived in the Czech Republic (CR). As language teachers, we had traveled the world, but loved life in the CR so much we decided to stay and start a family.

I remember when I first announced my pregnancy to friends and family back home in Minnesota. They were happy for us, but also skeptical about the quality of medical care I would receive in a former communist country.

As my pregnancy progressed, their skepticism turned to envy. My Czech OB-GYN went above and beyond her required duties. My employer shooed me onto paid maternity leave three weeks before my due date (as is Czech custom). After I gave birth, I was encouraged to stay at the hospital for as long as needed.

The most amazing part: It was completely free. In fact, the government paid me for having a child.
As newbie parents, we brought our daughter in to see her pediatrician for every cough and runny nose. We didn’t even hesitate. We did not have to worry about expensive co-pays or reaching an annual deductible. We only had to focus on what was best for her health and well-being.

Besides social tax withholdings, you know how much my health care cost in the CR? 30 crowns, the equivalent of about $1.50 at the time. That was the copay for a doctor’s visit. All tests, X-rays, labs and follow-up care were included in that price.

After a couple months of intense searching back in Minnesota, we found jobs before my doomsday scenarios could come to pass. Thankfully, our new employers offered what was considered to be really good medical benefits. But after enjoying the perks of universal health care in the CR for so long, it was hard to adapt to the American practice of paying a monthly premium yet not being guaranteed full coverage when visiting the doctor.

Here, even with health insurance, I think twice before going to the doctor because of the cost. I’ve worked out a kind of system.

My first line of defense is the internet, where I’ll try to self-diagnose. If I suspect a minor ailment— ear infection, strep, pink eye, a bad cough — I go to the Target Clinic because my co-pay is only $15. If I suspect something more serious, then I’ll make an appointment for an office visit and fork over the $35. I don’t think I’m the only one who does this.

I know that universal health care gets a bad rap in the U.S. Many Americans argue that it sounds nice in principle, but in practice it would be a mess. That’s just not true.

During my time in the CR, I had a tailbone injury resolved, a mole removed, a biopsy done on a cyst (thankfully, benign) and many other minor treatments. In each case, I received quality care and never had to wait long for an appointment.

In fact, the same day the cyst was discovered, only a few hours later, I was seen by a specialist who did an ultrasound exam and determined I needed the biopsy, which was also performed that same day.

I can’t even begin to explain the peace of mind it brings to be able to go and visit the doctor when you’re sick and not have to worry about the price tag. The peace of mind of immediately bringing your child in when you suspect strep throat, rather than waiting until her barking cough becomes unbearable because you can’t afford to bring them in early and risk the throat culture coming up negative, and then having to bring them in a day or two later because, yes, it really was strep.

I wish that every American could experience the peace of mind of universal health care. Once they knew what they were missing, I think national debate on health care reform would quickly come to a close. The way forward would be clear.

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Start right now on the path to good health





Kali-O’s Juice Box opens in Point Pleasant Beach. Staff video Tanya Breen
Tanya Breen/staff photographer

The topic of health and fitness is such a personal topic to me.

It is a way of living that is deeply rooted in my daily routines and eating habits – but it wasn’t always this way.

I had always been a skinny kid growing up, but when puberty hit, I was getting new curves on my body that made me insecure and uncomfortable.

I disliked my body and poured over fashion magazines for tips on the newest diet trends and tips to lose weight. Yet, I ate McDonald’s, Chinese food slathered in sodium, and all types of sweets. In fact, in fourth-grade, I could easily eat an entire bag of Herr’s sour cream and onion potato chips in one sitting!

My parents owned Chinese restaurants while I was growing up, and they worked 12- to 13-hour days, if not more.

Mostly, they were standing on their feet all day and working with their bodies. They didn’t sit at desk jobs, so they really never embraced the idea of exercising.

If they were standing and moving all day, why in the world would they head out for a run or go to a gym. The concept was foreign to them, so of course, being a kid, it was also not high on my priority.

I was always picked last for team sports, which I cared about, but only because of the social aspect of it – not the physical. Who cared if I couldn’t kick the ball in kickball? Not me, I just wanted to fit in.

Since my parents were so busy working, they never really had time to monitor the foods we were eating. My sister and I bought school lunches, ate whenever and whatever we wanted – and however much we wanted.

Back in those days, I really didn’t understand the idea of moderation. In my senior year of college, that all changed and has forever altered my path toward healthy living.

During my last term at Rutgers University at New Brunswick, I learned during Christmas break (of all times) that my mother was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer called large cell carcinoma, which had also claimed the life of Andy Kaufman of “Taxi” TV fame.

RELATED:What you should know about additives in food

My mom never smoked in her entire life, but my father did. However, he was never allowed to smoke in the house or around any of us kids.

At the time of her diagnosis, I was eating badly and not mindfully. I worked full-time to put myself through college, so I would be scarfing down cheeseburgers while driving from class to work or vice versa.

I was not fat or obese at this point, but I definitely didn’t care about what I was putting into my body at all. I had , however, started to do some running, which I enjoyed.

I loved the idea of a solitary run, feeling my heart rate increase, and inhaling, exhaling. I didn’t run very fast, but I was able to easily run for an hour or so.

It was a difficult time for our family – I really struggled with the idea of quitting my last semester at Rutgers to spend time with my mom.

More:A project seventh-graders are passionate about

I lived on campus, but after the diagnosis, I was driving home on a daily basis. Watching her body first deteriorate from chemotherapy was the worst since the chemicals are attacking the body.

She got smaller and smaller, more fragile than ever. She never wanted to go outside because, of all things, she felt shame about her disease. As if it was her fault!

My mom held on for about a year before she passed away in the early hours one February morning, just weeks before my birthday. She was only 53 years old.

I turned 40 this year and it occurred to me that she was only 13 years older than I am now before she withered away from lung cancer.

Even despite the pain of her passing, her life taught me a huge lesson about health and fitness.

That is when my passion for eating right, exercising, and maintaining balance developed. This is the reason that health and wellness is so important to me, and I want to share it with readers and clients, or anyone who is willing to listen.

Without our health, we are nothing. When I first started on my path to healthy living 20 years ago as that heart-broken college student, I really didn’t know where I should begin or where the path would take me.

The important part was to get started.

More:Luxury mixed with fitness in Hawaii

I started small – eliminating the junk food that I was eating just because it was convenient.

There are easy, healthy recipes, which taste delicious and can replace the fast food addiction.

If you aren’t able to run, take a walk, do yoga, do Pilates. Start where you are today – that’s exactly what I did 20 years ago.

Jean Chen Smith is a fashion executive who consults for a major fashion house in New York City and also teaches Pilates at Renaissance the Studio in Red Bank and private instruction. Jean, a marathon runner, is passionate about health, fitness and fashion, which is the reason she started her lifestyle website, Email her at or follow her on Facebook.

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A Positive Outlook May Be Good for Your Health

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EarthCraft-certified Organic Life House teaches Atlanta agrihood residents about healthy living

An American agrihood making waves with its sustainable living movement turned heads again with the completion of the first Organic Life House early this year. Located on the outskirts of Atlanta, Ga., the Serenbe community teamed up with Rodale’s Organic Life Magazine to build an EarthCraft-certified demonstration home to teach residents and visitors about healthy living and eco-friendly building practices. Constructed from natural materials, the 6,000-square-foot dwelling draws energy from renewable geothermal and solar sources and features a variety of wellness-promoting spaces.

Organic Life House at Serenbe, EarthCraft certified homes, Organic Life House by JP Curran, eco-friendly housing in agrihoods, agrihood sustainable architecture

Designed by architect J.P. Curran and built by Bobby Webb, the Organic Life House is a four-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath home that promotes wellness and connection with the outdoors. In addition to the use of natural materials throughout the home, the stone-clad Serenbe house reinforces its ties with nature with views of the preserved woods, edible and medicinal gardens, and a series of outdoor spaces like the labyrinth and multiple porches. Thoughtful choices for the neutral-toned interior, from the flooring to window treatments, create a healthy indoor environment promoting wellness and relaxation. Tall ceilings, ample natural light, and warm textures create a homey feel.

Organic Life House at Serenbe, EarthCraft certified homes, Organic Life House by JP Curran, eco-friendly housing in agrihoods, agrihood sustainable architecture

“The partnership between Serenbe and Organic Life is the perfect collaboration,” says Steve Nygren, founder of Serenbe. “We are both dedicated to helping people enjoy well-balanced lives that are in tune with their environment and community. The Organic Life House will be an exciting opportunity to introduce the Serenbe lifestyle to the Rodale audience and show how they can apply these practices in their own homes.”

Related: America’s first urban ‘agrihood’ feeds 2,000 households for free

Organic Life House at Serenbe, EarthCraft certified homes, Organic Life House by JP Curran, eco-friendly housing in agrihoods, agrihood sustainable architecture

The Organic Life House expands on the Serenbe mission to serve as an inspiring leader for agrihoods and wellness communities, and was the first home to break ground in the 1,000-acre community’s newest neighborhood, Mado. Like Serenbe’s other energy-efficient homes, the Organic Life House features renewable energy systems like geothermal heating and cooling as well as energy-saving appliances. The home also includes a yoga and meditation studio, saltwater lap pool, and hot tub.

+ Organic Life House

Images by J. Ashley Photography

Organic Life House at Serenbe, EarthCraft certified homes, Organic Life House by JP Curran, eco-friendly housing in agrihoods, agrihood sustainable architecture

Organic Life House at Serenbe, EarthCraft certified homes, Organic Life House by JP Curran, eco-friendly housing in agrihoods, agrihood sustainable architecture

Organic Life House at Serenbe, EarthCraft certified homes, Organic Life House by JP Curran, eco-friendly housing in agrihoods, agrihood sustainable architecture

Organic Life House at Serenbe, EarthCraft certified homes, Organic Life House by JP Curran, eco-friendly housing in agrihoods, agrihood sustainable architecture

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‘We All Eat’ event offers tips, tasting for healthy living

Curious about pressure cooking? Not sure what to do with that cast iron skillet? Need a few healthy recipes? The first “We All Eat” event has you covered.

The free community event takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Sedgwick County Extension Office. It is sponsored by the Health and Wellness Coalition of Wichita.

“At this hands-on event, all participants will leave with doable ideas for making healthy eating a bigger part of their lives,” Tammi Krier, healthy eating director at the YMCA, said in a release.

More than 50 organizations will share about incorporating healthy choices into different areas of life. The event will include giveaways, panels and activities, all about healthy eating.

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Healthy Living: Learn to better manage your asthma

As an asthma self-management coach working with patients in our region, I see how difficult the disease can be for individuals, children and families. Yet, I’ve also seen how proper education can really help people cope.

Asthma is not a temporary or sporadic event but a persistent condition. However, most people can manage their illness and enjoy a full life without restrictions.

In my work with patients at local schools and throughout the community, I see barriers preventing patients and families from fully understanding their condition, and this, in many cases, leads to unnecessary suffering.

Asthma can be managed best when people know their internal and environmental triggers. Those triggers include dust, pollen, smoke, strong emotions, mites, cold and flu and more. It is important to understand these triggers and take preventative measures.

There are other ways to fight asthma, too. In my interventions with patients, many were initially very afraid of using inhaled steroids due to concerns about potential addiction or dependence. Parents of young children are often especially concerned. Through asthma education classes and one-on-one follow-up, these doubts have been reduced, and fears and myths about inhaled steroids overcome.

These types of educational programs can significantly reduce severe asthma attacks for many patients. Netter education and knowledge on proper use of medications can reduce emergency room visits, saving money for families and our overall health care system.

In school-based programs, many students are receiving enrichment classes about asthma. It is encouraging and heartwarming to see how these pupils react to the information. Most of them are very enthusiastic about learning how to better manage their asthma.

Interestingly, studies have indicated that a population group most affected by asthma is the hispanic community and, in particular, the Puerto Rican population. In my interventions in the community, it appears that a language barrier is contributing to a lack of disease knowledge for some people. For example, it is hard to correctly use a medication if you cannot read the instructions.

I sometimes accompany patients when they go to see their primary doctor or specialist and I see the language barrier firsthand. It is part of my job to help bridge this communication gap, helping different patients better communicate with their physicians, as well as other community agencies that can provide help.

As an example, there is a program called Breath Well/Respira Bien in New London that is available to help patients.

I hope this column will encourage patients and families throughout our region to pursue the information that can help you and your loved ones best cope with asthma and allergies.

Jennifer Lemus is an asthma self-management coach at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

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