Archive for November 10th, 2013


The Health care special (3)

November 10, 2013

Like many other people, we got a cancellation letter from our health insurance carrier. It contains the same news people all over the country are getting.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is discontinuing your individual health benefit plan because it doesn’t meet all the requirements of the new health care reform laws (also called the Affordable Care Act).

(Click for a larger, readable view.)

Are we upset? You bet!

1. Did the President and his administration lie about "if you like your plan, you can keep it"? That’s what NBC News reports.

And the Obama administration is still claiming that at this writing. I like the part on that page about how they’ll "debunk the myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors" since those are exactly the problems my family faces now.

Thanks, Obama!

2. The "Affordable Care Act" name is blackly humorous because this new plan we’re offered would cost more than twice what we currently pay for a plan with the same deductible. That $1,417.59 number in the letter would be our monthly cost.

A health care plan for three of us, for only $17,000 per year? What a deal!

3. I expected that a Federal bureaucracy would put itself in the business of deciding for the entire country what constitutes an "acceptable" health care plan and would then force everyone to buy one like that. And so it happened. At our ages, my wife and I don’t need maternity and newborn care but those "must be included on all non-grandfathered plans at no out-of-pocket limit."

I get the principle of pooling risk behind insurance. And it’s obvious that forcing everyone to pay for maternity and newborn care is a way to lower the cost for those who actually need it. Plus, the Democrats get the political advantage of saying that they’ve addressed "Womens Health" issues (by plundering everyone else).

The point is that the decision used to be taken freely; now it’s a compulsory action decided by a bureaucracy.

I’m sure that many would say, "But now young people will be sharing the risk of your age-related care too." That’s likely true as well. But I don’t think the young folks should be compelled to do that. If I had my way, I wouldn’t be forcing my sons (and their peers) to pay my bills.

The fix that the US health care system needed was more price transparency so patients could make better-informed decisions. Just try asking your doctor or dentist what the costs will be beforehand. If your experience is like mine, you’ll get blank looks and people who ask "Why do you care? You’re not paying for it."

It’s a fact that my dentist charges me only half of what he charges an insurance company for a check-up and cleaning. Those days are gone now.

I don’t expect that transparent prices will be a panacea. Transparency won’t solve cases of life-and-death urgency nor will it make everyone medically literate when shopping for a doctor. But I don’t think there’s any perfect solution for all cases. Remember: hard cases make bad law.

Price transparency is what’s needed to allow the market to work despite those counter factors. Why do prices for procedures not typically covered by insurance plans ("elective procedures") keep falling? Markets at work.

But PPACA goes in the opposite direction. Not only does it fail to fix the pricing problem, it entrenches and effectively subsidizes the current system of hiding price information. Welcome to the one-size-fits-all-means-it-fits-nobody world.

4. But what has me most angry is not President Obama nor the Democratic Party congressmen who saddled us with this disaster. They only did what they’ve been saying for years that they’d do. Instead, I’m upset with all of those people who voted to put Obama and his party in power.

So instead of sarcastically saying, "Thanks, Obama!" what I’ll say sarcastically is, "Thanks a lot, Fellow Voters!" Thank you so very much for forcing us all to join a health care buyers’ club whether we wanted it or not.

Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and gave him triumphal processions and laughed delightedly at his licentiousness and thought it very superior of him to acquire vast amounts of gold illicitly. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the ‘new, wonderful good society’ which shall now be Rome’s, interpreted to mean ‘more money, more ease, more security, more living fatly at the expense of the industrious.

I don’t know who said this but it describes the state of affairs all too well. It’s often attributed to Cicero (but there’s some dispute about that).


The health care special (2)

November 10, 2013

Frankly, I’d find this a lot funnier if I weren’t the fish who will soon own a bicycle.



The health care special (1)

November 10, 2013

A former workmate sent the letter below about someone he knows with an attitude. (I’m keeping him anonymous for obvious reasons.)

I think he’s a little over the top predicting an economic death spiral, especially from one observation. Anecdotes aren’t data, after all. On the other hand, who knows how prevalent this attitude is? It certainly applies to other things than health care benefits. So he may be right that it’s a harbinger of disaster.

In any event, the attitude he describes is bad cultural juju. Taking ‘free’ government benefits that you could buy for yourself strikes me as a violation-by-proxy of the Golden Rule. Give your fellow citizens a break, people (even if some of them are wealthier than you).

I have to add that I’d feel a lot better if his acquaintance with the attitude were a 20-something rather than a 50-something. That’s the scariest part IMO.

I have a close acquaintance who shall remain nameless. Single and in his/her mid 50s. While s/he seems to be in good health, s/he is a functional alcoholic; drinks all day long, every day.

S/he had several jobs in IT in Silicon Valley area back in the ‘80s and 90’s but decided it wasn’t his/her cup of tea. Now s/he supposedly run a seasonal small business in the northern Midwest. S/he hires day laborers only and pays them in cash each day. S/he only buys business insurance when required to show a active policy to bid on bigger commercial jobs.

In the winter s/he closes down the operation up north and heads to the south to spend winter. The winter business apparently is not as productive (due to lack of demand) so s/he does all sorts of odd jobs to supplement income. I have no idea what his/her annual income is and suspect that s/he operates on cash basis as much as possible to avoid paying FICA, Medicare, state and federal income tax. And of course s/he has no medical insurance.

A few days ago I was watching the news and of course the segment was on the Obamacare debacle.

S/he walked in and stated that s/he was looking forward to Obamacare so s/he could afford medical insurance. S/he then described how the high deductible medical insurance s/he retained for a few years was “a complete waste of money.” So apparently s/he did not get sick or injured often/seriously enough to meet the deductible. S/he said “This was a total waste of $10,000.” I asked if the medical plan was $10000/year (which seemed extraordinarily high). “No. That’s what I paid over 8 or so years.” So when s/he had insurance s/he paid about $105/month for coverage. S/he went on about how greedy insurance companies are and how much better the Obamacare exchange plans will be. Note I said “will be” as s/he had not yet bothered to try and sign up.

And part of the reason s/he had not explored his/her options under Obamacare was the extensive reports of the web interface failure. The other stated reason was s/he wanted to know where s/he would get the “best deal.” In the northern mid-western state or in the southern state (that also has no income tax).

So I asked why s/he had not at least checked to see what the cost/options were as there are plenty of other resources, short of signing up, where s/he could get preliminary estimates? Answer: Website problems (missing my point) and the fact that the deadline is weeks/months away. I dropped the discussion at that point.

A week or so later the subject came up again and s/he stated “Well its most likely I’ll just pay the $95 fine.” When I asked if s/he got monthly cost estimates, s/he just reiterated s/he would “go with the fine and then pick up insurance if/when s/he needs it or just file bankruptcy like everyone else does.”

So my acquaintance enjoys a life where s/he can afford to spend the winter in the south, in an apartment loaded with electronic toys (LCD TV, PCs, iPad, iPhone), drink all day long, and work when it is convenient or perhaps necessary when cash flow tightens.

And s/he wants everyone else to pay their medical care going forward because doing paying their own way would effectively deny him/her the lifestyle they have selected.

I am betting my friend’s approach is going to be replicated by millions of other folks.

The ‘sick’ may get better deals and they’ll likely take advantage of them.

Many of the able will remain uninsured until the last minute, because they can.

An economic death spiral is inevitable.

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