Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Health Care Debate Continues

As time moves on, the health care debate does too. And all we see is the passionate debate for or against it, with no real discussion of what's broke about the system and what specific aspects that need fixing. It seems that there are 2 schools of thought; Government run health care or increase insurance competition without the government entering the business. HR 3400 is the Republican solution to health care which simply put, has tax credit provisions for maintaining health insurance, and allows for small businesses to pool into groups to purchase insurance for their employees at large group rates, and more blah blah blah about fraud waste and abuse and so on.

Let me tell you something, when you have a middle man administrating the care whether it's the government, in the case of Medicare and Medicaid, or the private sector in the case of all other insurance, rates are predetermined/negotiated. Which means the insurance company or the government tells the provider how much they will pay them for a certain service or procedure regardless of cost. A set up like this encourages fraud waste and abuse on so many levels. Meaning a doctor sees a patient and takes the opportunity to run all sorts of tests and procedures, ordinarily unnecessary but particularly if it is of no harm to the patient in order to increase their reimbursement. All they have to do is justify it medically, and when you are an expert in the game you can justify anything. This is especially easy to do and difficult to prove on older patients or if the patient makes any comment that could be construed to justify ordering this or that, which is another billable item.

What I am trying to say is that as long as there is a intermediary that must employ doctors, nurses and administrative personnel to administer payment on behalf of the patient, fraud waste and abuse will continue. Do you not find it fraudulent that insurance companies can deny coverage on the basis of a preexisting condition? But they can. This is the issue I think Americans can agree on and where we ought to start. That doesn't mean these patients might not have to pay higher premiums or higher deductibles or co-insurance.

Let's be honest, the fact that we pay premiums just means that insurance is just a payment plan for our routine medical care that is expected to even out over time. How else is an insurance company going to make money? For example. My parents were without health insurance when they first got married, by choice. They could have paid for it, but money was tight and it was a risk they chose to take since they are both very healthy. About a year later, dad went to the ER for kidney stones. They paid the discount they were offered to pay in full at the time of service. (All facilities offer this probably doctors too, some just make you ask for it) Calculated out, it cost about what insurance premiums and a deductible would have cost them for the time period of being uninsured. Had they put that money in savings every month, they would have had that money at the time of service instead of having to put it on a credit card.

I will say it again, if doctors and patients ban together to cut out the middle man, whether the government or insurance companies and take back personal responsibility for our health care, (dare I say live healthy lives?) I bet the cost of care would drop dramatically because doctors wouldn't have to employ staff or pay agencies to bill and collect from insurance companies. They could just collect the full amount up front at the time of service and I bet it would be lower than the "negotiated rates" they get from insurance companies or Medicare because Doctors and facilities would truly have to compete for your business. See my previous post about this issue on July 12. But I know 90% or you or more will likely disagree with me on this issue just like 90% of America is going to disagree with me about privatizing social security.

My point of this post is rather than each side insisting on their solution and their solution only, both of which only treats the symptoms, how about we think outside the box and treat the problem. At the very least, let's focus on 1 part of the system that we can all likely agree on (preexisting denial, or perhaps something else) and start there if the majority don't really want to treat the problem. As it is it just seems like a political power grab taking freedom from you and me the consumers.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cash for Clunkers - What Do You Think?

No doubt many if not all of you have heard about the cash for clunkers program that is about to end after this weekend. Some of you may have even used the opportunity to get a new car. My question to you is, did you see it as a successful program?

The reason I ask is you have to consider what the point of the program was to decide it if was successful or not. Was it to improve the environment? Was it to filter more money to the auto companies? And if so, how much of that money have they gotten? Was the purpose something else?

My next question is how many, if any, of the new cars purchased do you think will be repossessed in the near future? If any are repossessed, does that change your opinion of whether or not it was a success or failure? Does it matter if the money went directly to the car companies or those that purchased the cars?

I don't quite know where the money came from. I just assume that since I didn't have a car to trade in, I'm somehow paying for it. Which I obviously don't care for. I can think of better ways to handle this, but again, it really depends what the point of the program was.

Just curious to hear other assessments of the program.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Swiss Banks Strike a Deal With the U.S. Government

I'm not sure how many of you know about this or even care about this, but basically speaking we all know that people have been able to move money to Swiss bank accounts in an effort to protect their assets from tax policies that would be levied against them by holding them here in America. Basically the deal involves Swiss banks revealing the records for 52,000 Americans suspected of nearly $15 Billion in assets be held in Swiss banks and not American banks. Obviously the plan is to penalize them by levying heavy fines or taxes or whatever against them to help raise money for the government and sticking it to the "evil rich" on behalf of us little people.

I have 2 points to make. First, what to you want to bet that certain politicians and/or the associates in their back pockets are NOT on that list?

Second, are we not concerned about the American economic policies that are causing these people to send $15 Billion overseas? So you fine them for "not paying taxes" or whatever, but do they have to bring that money back here? Wouldn't it be better if that $15 Billion had been in American banks this whole time stimulating the American economy? And is fining them going to make them want to bring their money back here? While I completely disagree with dodging taxes, we have tax policies that encourage finding loopholes. Here's an unoriginal thought, fix the economic and tax policies that cause them store their money elsewhere. Be the tax haven that they want to encourage them to invest in their own economy. That money staying over here will do more to stimulate this economy than bailing out corporations and banks.

The Fair Tax is one solution, but I'm sure there other solutions that would keep power in the hands of the politicians (insert sarcasm because decreased politician power is why the Fair Tax won't pass), while being a tax haven that encourages investment in the American economy.

What's your take?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

President Obama Just Made My Last Point

Without intending to, President Obama just made the same point of my last post. Check it out.

"As long as they have a good product and the government plan has to sustain itself through premiums and other non-tax revenue, private insurers should be able to compete with the government plan, Obama said."

"'They do it all the time,'" he said. "'UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. ... It's the Post Office that's always having problems.'"

Seriously, do you want the government running your health care?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Something the Government Has a Monopoly on is a Risk???

This has been going on for awhile now but I haven't seen much discussion about it in the blogosphere. The GAO (Government Accountability Office) released their report a few weeks ago putting the U.S. Post Office on its "high-risk" list. What does this mean?

"There are serious and significant structural financial challenges currently facing the Postal Service...."

"Mail volume fell by 9.5 billion pieces in fiscal year 2008 to a total of 203 billion pieces and is projected to fall by 28 billion pieces in fiscal year 2009 to a total of 175 billion pieces. USPS expects mail volume and revenue to continue declining next year, and flat or continued volume decline over the next 5 years. USPS projects a net loss of $7 billion this fiscal year, with outstanding debt increasing to over $10 billion, and a cash shortfall of about $1 billion. USPS also expects that its projected losses will continue in fiscal year 2010."

I don't know about you all, but 90% of our mail is junk mail that we may or may not look at. Even if those sending it don't define it as junk mail. That doesn't count bills. Bills fall in the 10% category for us, though many are foregoing bills sent in the mail so they can be notified by email, or have it automatically drafted from their checking account once a month. We pay as many of our bills by credit card to rack up the points as we are allowed to pay that way and make one payment to our credit card a month. This reduces our personal use of the USPS as well as many others we know. Between automatic bank drafts and consolidation of bill payment, and contacting each other by email when ever we feel like it, demand for the USPS has dropped.

So the USPS, which if you didn't know is run by the federal government, can't find a way to remain profitable. Is that a surprise to anyone? So let me ask you this, are you willing to pay more taxes so that the USPS can remain a viable business in spite of decreased demand and so that all those postal workers can keep their jobs?

I leave you with this; do you want the same government who couldn't keep the USPS a viable business running your health care? Making decisions about your life?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Beer Summit

Is it just me or does something called a "Beer Summit" actually dominating the news and talk shows the last week or so seem like a successful fraternity prank? Or a dream come true to the beer companies that were mentioned over and over as the beers of choice in countless articles and TV programs? What was the point?

I mean doesn't the president have more important things to do than to "mediate" a meeting of two people that probably didn't care to see each other ever again. One of whom by some accounts still expected an apology from someone doing his job responding to a call that was made by someone, who ironically was looking out for the best interest of a neighbor and trying to protect his property.

Oh, but you may say, "Lola, that's your skewed slant on the story." Is it?

Fact: the neighbor saw someone who appeared to be forcibly entering a home in her neighborhood rather than entering with ease as if he owned the place. I'm sure he wasn't looking around for her to see his face either.

Fact: She called the police as it's never recommended to confront a potential criminal yourself.

Fact: The police responded to a call about a suspected break in.

What happened from there I can't attest as a fact since I wasn't a witness. But do you or do you not want your neighbors to call the police when they suspect someone is breaking into your home? And do you or do you not want the police to do their job and protect your home when called? And should they not be reasonably suspicious if you don't have the keys to your own house? Or should that be the new standard? No keys, breaking into the house normal...Do you think being rude and belligerent or polite and respectful to a cop will get you what you want.

So the result of the "summit" according to the above article from Reuters;
"'I think what you had today was two gentlemen who agreed to disagree on a particular issue,' Crowley told reporters." Again I say, what was the point? Was the point to convince Gates that he overreacted? Or was the point to convince Crowley he was wrong? It's a shame that Gates and Obama made this about race. I don't believe most reasonable people believe it was about anything other than this cop doing his job as he was trained to do. That fact that it came down to agreeing to disagree seems to make the whole thing an exercise in futility to save face for Obama for stupidly making a statement without having the facts. "I have no comment until I have the facts" (more or less) should be a standard response when unaware of the facts. Maybe this was a lesson learned for him. What I don't know is if he understands the part he played in perpetuating the "race card" that so many people have been trying to squash for years, even after he was elected to the highest office in the country.

"'I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart,' Obama said in a statement after the meeting in a garden outside the Oval Office."

"I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode."

I'd like to know what everyone's lesson was from this episode, especially after Crowley's statement. Is agreeing to disagree a positive outcome of this meeting? Perhaps the follow-up "Beer Summit" should be with Bill Cosby.

What's your opinion?

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