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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Government run health care

What is the single biggest problem with the government providing your health care? It means they start making the decisions. Its only fair. If they are footing the bill and you are behaving badly that adversely  impacts their costs, then shouldn’t they have a right to stop you? I mean they are paying for it, right?

That is what happens. And its not a theory, its being put into practice. Some examples:

Fat children ‘should be taken from parents’ to curb obesity epidemic

New Zealand bans British man’s “Fat Wife” from entering the country

Whoever pays for it is the one who cares and the one who is responsible for it. Its not a far stretch from the above items to rationing McDonalds intake among the populace. Should I have to help my neighbor pay for a triple bypass if he eats like a garbage and doesn’t exercise? No. We’ll just make him eat right and exercise, right?

Friday, July 11, 2008

When Not-The Man becomes The Man

A friend pointed out an interesting article at The Root entitled When The Man is One of Us regarding the current changes happening in the black community in response to Barack Obama's success.

It does bring up a very interesting point. What happens when one group, whose primary political focus has long been fighting for an equal seat at the table, suddenly finds that they are at the head of the table?

not-quite-non-sequitur: Yesterday I saw a piece of wisdom on the TV show Las Vegas which seems somewhat relevant. The happiest dog in the pack is the beta dog because he doesn't have the responsibility of the alpha dog but relishes in the benefits of being near the alpha dog.

In The Root's story, when you spend decades blaming and fighting the establishment for your ills, what happens when you become the establishment? According to Jack White you start doing some self reflection (as some derided black figures like Bill Cosby have been arguing in favor of for a while). Mr. White says they have always been doing it privately but now have to take it public since the only one to complain about publicly is themselves.

[updated - and updated the article link]

Not-The Man has become The Man. Cant wait to see if anything changes.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Smoking bans unique among bans?

As more and more cities across the country enact laws to ban smoking in publicly accessible bars and restaurants I got to thinking. These bans are completely unique - which to me is a serious issue with their legality.

Is there any other item or behavior which is permissible in both your own private residence and in a public outdoor space which is illegal to use in a private business?

I can't think of a single one.

The real problem of health care costs in America

The real problem with health care today is that it is free (or nearly so) for most of us. I'll say it another way: the major fix for health care costs is to make us start paying for it. I know a major issue in this political season is trying to get  everyone coverage, but bear with me for a moment.

We don't currently pay for our own health care. We have health insurance. The health insurance pays for the majority of our bills. They negotiate prices with the doctors and ask us to pay some nominal fees. Then we pay them (or our employer does) whatever they claim is required.

Any time you have one group of people consuming a product and another group paying for the product, you eliminate the pressures on price controls. If you and I chose our own doctors and hospitals and paid for it out of pocket then we would be much more careful about it. That would also make the suppliers (doctors and hospitals and pharmaceutical companies) more careful about it.

Maybe you are careful about it, but if the current price to visit the doctor makes you pause the decision is not "Do I go to this doctor or find another just as good?" because the price for you is identical. The decision becomes "Do I go to the doctor?"

If you have good insurance you don't even question it at all. You may even go more than necessary or the doctor may prescribe additional tests or medicines. For you its free, it doesn't matter how much it actually costs because the insurance is picking up the majority of the bill.

Because health insurance is an employment benefit or a government program for most people, there is no market for it. Look at auto, fire, life or any other type of insurance and you will see price & benefit comparisons constantly made to each other because you can just up and switch to another company if they offer you a better deal.

The health insurance company doesn't have the same incentive you do to keep the costs down because they are getting reimbursed by you (or your employer) and just pass the cost on to you. sure they may want to keep costs down to increase profits, but ultimately they are just a retailer selling you packaged goods with a profit margin. The main difference is that you are only allowed to go to their store.

In addition, if you are not involved in the decision around payment then you are also not involved in the decisions about your own care. You are at the mercy of the particular health plan you have - or should I say the plan you are given. You probably didn't even pick the plan you have. It is either a government program or was provided by your employer as a benefit. Either way, you didn't choose it.

So you have a plan you didn't choose, making your medical decisions for you, and forcing you to pay rates you have no control over. Is that where you want to be?

The big problem is that health care is primarily a benefit package instead of a paid for service. This really stems from tax incentives to corporations. The law allows them to pay you in the form of health care instead of dollars. What this ends up doing though is locking you into a system where you have no choice and therefore cannot affect the outcome of your own health!

The first step to solving the health care problems in the country is to remove health care as a benefit given to employees. If businesses were taxed on this just as any other compensation they grant, the practice would stop and the health insurance providers would instead start marketing their goods directly to the people who want them, the people who need them, and the people who care about what the quality is and what the price is - you!

This may sound radical, but I say this as someone who has an excellent health care plan provided through my employer. It is really in my own interests to maintain the system because of my own situation with regard to minimal out of pocket expenses, but ultimately it also becomes a chain to the corporation that provides it. I cannot change jobs, even if I wanted to, and maintain the level of health care that I have now without severely limiting my job prospects.

If the health insurance industry were run in the same way as the other types of insurance then it would not be tied to your employer, you would then have the choice to pick your plan and company you wanted, and your direct involvement with your own costs would force the behavior that would ultimately cause price pressures on the providers to compete for you own business the same way an auto body shop should when you have a car accident.

The problem is not that we need someone to take care of our health care decisions. We already have that. We need to see the real costs. We need to care about those costs. We need to start making our own decisions for ourselves!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tivo'ing past newspaper ads

A local paper has posted this ad in order to boost their ad sales. Now potential legal issues of modifying Tivo's logo aside, are they actually comparing TV penetration to newspaper readership? And I'll grant that skipping a newspaper ad is a little more difficult than skipping a TV commercial. You have to move your whole arm to turn the page instead of just click a button.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Monkey business and Free Speech

You may have heard about the flack over the Obama delegate who supposedly used the word Monkey in a racially charged way. One thing in this story is being sorely overlooked. According to the AP story

[Ramirez-Sliwinski] said the children shouldn't be climbing in the tree like monkeys.
The mother of one boy called police, who issued Ramirez-Sliwinski a $75 ticket for disorderly conduct. Police say the ticket was warranted because her remark scared one of the children and disturbed a parent.

So everyone seems to agree that it wasn't racially motivated, but even if it was, can you really call the police for being slurred? This woman got a ticket for saying a word!

"You hurt my feelings! Go directly to jail. Do not pass go!"

No one said she was ranting, raving, or doing anything scary other than making the remark.

Are you sure you don't want iTunes with that?

Yes I am! As mentioned in a previous entry I ended up uninstalling all of Apple's software because it kept begging to install applications I never asked for. Problem is, it just popped up again to ask if I want to install everything that is not supposed to be there anymore.

I guess the uninstall doesn't actually remove everything!!!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Do you want iTunes with that?

So I broke down and installed Quicktime to watch ONE stupid video. Then a few days later I start to get the following message nearly every day:

Updates are available, would you like to install iTunes?

Ummm, no I wouldn't, and that is not an update. Its another program. So after weeks of this I finally break down and install the iTunes "upgrade" to Quicktime. Please go away now. It did for about a week. Then this gem shows up:

Updates are available, would you like to install Safari?

AAARRRGGGG!!!!!! WTF! Is Apple actually trying to get me to believe that Safari is an upgrade from the Quicktime codec? I mean iTunes was at least in the same ballpark (or maybe city) being about media, but come on now!!!

CMD>uninstall quicktime

Right to cut your debt in half?

On the way in to work there was an add on the radio which claimed "You have a right to cut your credit card debt, by up to half!" Now these are the guys who we should be going after.

I'm pretty sure the Constitution doesn't mention anything about credit cards.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

UK wants to track all "potential" criminals DNA as young as 5

Children as young as FIVE should be put on DNA list, says forensics expert. They claim that they can reasonably identify future offenders as early as 5 years old by watching their behaviour patterns. So now we won't even wait until the kids even think about doing something bad. "You're going to be a criminal in 5-10 years! We better start tracking you now!"

This is the new idea since they can't legally DNA track everyone...yet.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Discrimination not all bad

Discrimination gets a bad rap. Its the first word people throw out when they don't like a decision someone else makes. "You're discriminating against them!" Sometimes that's a bad thing and sometimes its not.

To discriminate means to recognize differences between different things. Sometimes that means treating one group unfairly because of an ignorant prejudice. Sometimes that just means treating a group differently because it makes sense. Different is not necessarily unfair.

We all make discriminate choices in our daily lives - what to eat, what to wear, who to befriend, help or talk to.

That last one may make you pause and say "Hey, don't be a racist!" That is not the point. I can still discriminate among people in a reasonable way.

I believe everyone agrees that we should discriminate against criminals. We put them in jail, take away their freedom and right to vote. In some cases they get treated differently in court, for example a repeat offender. Criminals (and especially felons) are a group of people whom we treat differently - for a reason. Now whether certain crimes are bigger than others is another discussion but for arguments sake let's just stick with armed bank robbers. Anyone think we should treat bank robbers the same as you and me? Should they be allowed to walk around free just because we are "the same"? Once they are caught, do the orange jumpsuits make them feel singled out? Good! They are being singled out and for good reason!

I don't like seafood. I discriminate against seafood restaurants because I don't even consider them an option when making a dinner reservation. There is no one out there screaming for restaurant equality or requiring that X% of my restaurant visits include seabass and shellfish.

I discriminate among the shops I visit, the brands of clothing I wear, the different items I purchase. The entire media marketing world is designed to make you discriminate among competing products for no real reason at all! Our entire economy is based on differences and discriminating opinions of the differences (sometimes only perceived) in the products.

The trick is to come to an agreement as a society as to which discriminations are allowed and which ones are not.