Sunday, September 27, 2009

Taxing the fortunate

I just can't sit quite any longer about the recent health care debate. It's crazy out there! The options being discussed are so ridiculous that at first, you might say that there is no way that this particular option or that one would be passed into law, so there is no need to comment. However, after a long time hearing the debates rage and realizing that the ridiculous ideas won't go away, I just had to say something!

The latest bad idea thrown into the arena is Nancy Pelosi's recent suggestion that the government should punish those who have good health insurance to help pay for those who don't. What? Can she be serious? Yes, she is considering taxing insurance plans with high value premiums and great coverage. This is possibly the worst idea to come from this legislature in recent memory. I thought the idea was to fix health care, to help those who can't afford it. I don't think she realizes that this tax plan would utterly stop employers or employee's from having excellent health insurance coverage and would transition them to lower coverage plans - in essence, taking away health coverage.

So why would they want to destroy the really good plans where people are fully cared for? It goes back to the issue of taxing the rich. Pelosi and her fellow collegues really do believe that the higher income class of America should bear the full burden of the lower income classes. They are not interested in promoting or encouraging people to succeed, but only punishing those who do. They don't believe that people who earn a lot of money through hard work, perseverance, or great risk have a right to keep it, but they do believe that those without income, who haven't worked for it, do have a right to some. Where is the logic in that?

I also see this as a step towards a single payer system. The next logical step would be to tax any insurance plan that provides better coverage than the government plan. Why not? It fits within their believe system that everyone is entitled to the same thing, irregardless of effort, personal hard work, abilities, or otherwise.

I spent some time thinking of a better health plan and wrote about it here. I still think these are some good ideas. But, you must understand - I am a capitalist and believe in free market economics. I am not a socialist - which may be why Pelosi won't ever like my plan.


Ps. Don't hesitate to click on the adds in my blog. They generate revenue for the government to tax...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Customer Service

I was surprised when someone answered the phone. Really! I was surprised not to get a computer answering service when I called. A human actually answered the phone first and I was able to talk to a person without going through an impossible menu system. It was very nice and the way it should be.

I've observed a very annoying trend lately with corporations and even government agencies. They are replacing their telephone answering systems and people with a computer voice recognition system that asks you to say what you want and it tries to figure out where to direct you. Then it begins collecting information from you. After a couple of minutes of trying to get the voice recognition system to let you talk to someone, you then have to repeat your information. It usually takes 3 or 4 minutes just to work the system before your finally placed in the queue to talk to a representative or agent. Argh!

This is incredibly annoying to me and I think I've figured out why. The problem is that if I call a company, it's only because I actually want to talk to a person. If I wanted to interact with a computer, I would go to their website and dig up the information or work through the issue that way. But if I call them - it's because I need a human to answer a question or to work through an issue with me. I need someone on the other end of the line that can think and solve my problem! Computers don't do this.

These computer voice recognition systems have apparently been sold to these companies and gov't departments under the guise of providing better customer service. Boy how wrong they are! I would rather talk to a human in India than a computer voice system in Texas! At least the India support can think a little bit and understands most of the words I speak. The computer voice systems only recognize a limited set of words and usually there are many ways to express what my needs are. Which words are they looking for? Whatever I say, it rarely gets me to where I want to go in their menus.

But, like I said at the beginning, I was surprised once last week. I called a local credit union and someone picked up the phone right away. I was so taken aback that I had to tell her thanks for simply answering the phone instead of making me work through a menu system. She then got me to the department I needed right way without any guessing. It was GREAT!

For anyone reading this who is making decisions about their phone support - please, a human answering the phone is a far better way!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Better Records

Our medical records system has to change. In this one area, I actually agree with Mr. Obama, but only in part.

I went to the Dr. recently and spent the majority of my time there writing dow
n my medical information. Very little time was actually spent with the doctor. Then he spent 2 minutes reviewing my medical history and then talked to us. When I go to another doctor for something else, I will need to repeat the procedure, but he won't see the information that the previous doctor wrote because the records are separate. I might even leave something off by mistake (or intentionally). This has got to change. In an age where information is so easily stored and accessed from anywhere in the world through a simple web browser, there is no reason not to have one source for all my information.

We have to move to a single record per person for all medical issues and history. I don't mean a single repository for all records, but one place for my records and possibly another for yours. Read on...

If all my records were in one place, then any doctor that I give approval to can view them and see all my history immediately and without duplication or error. He will have accurate and current info on my history, conditions, treatments, prescriptions, etc. I don't have to worry about forgetting something or worry about him not understanding something because it will all be in one place.

However, I do have some caveats about this.
  • This must be developed privately and not by the government. Have you ever accessed a government web site? They are difficult to use and not as good as most corporate sites. The government should not attempt to develop this technology but instead should simply reward the company(s) who do. Set up a development competition so that whoever meets all the requirements within the time frame will be rewarded nicely. Even if a $100 million reward was posted, this would still cost far less than the current estimates for the government to develop.
  • There must be open competition so that there might be 2 or 3 good records storage providers competing for our business. This is critical to keeping the quality high and costs low. A government built technology will be stale and never keep up with technology.
  • The records must be portable so that if I want to switch providers, I simply export/import to a new record provider.
  • The records belong to the person (owner) only. No one else can access the information except those to whom permission is granted. When a doctor needs to see the records, he/she must be granted access permission from the owner. Same for family members.
  • Neither the government nor the insurance industry will have access to these records unless granted by the individual.
  • When access is granted, it will only be for a limited time (maybe a week or month). This goes for Doctors as well.
  • All access to the information will be traced and recorded - visible to the owner so that he/she knows who and when their records were accessed.
  • The providers will need to keep a subset of our records for their records. This is simply a legal CYA for them but it could be used for research if permission is granted by the owner.
  • The owner will not be able to modify a doctor's notes, comments, or prescriptions. This will prevent the patient from hiding something, like getting duplicate prescriptions or conflicting medicines.
  • Security must be at the top of the list. Lots of people are concerned about this, but this is not an insolvable problem. Easy - no, but it is doable.
  • It must store images (MRI's, xrays, etc), prescriptions, doctor's notes, nurses notes, owner notes, questions, scans of older records, etc.
  • It must not store billing information. If someone is having trouble paying, then that must be handled separately and not be visible by the provider.
  • It must be easy to use and intuitive. This is a good reason to keep the government out of it.
  • The monthly cost can be paid by the owner/individual through subscription fees. However, someone will probably be able to be profitable through advertising or some other means.
  • HIPAA laws must change to support and adjust to storing information this way.
The list of requirements will surely grow since I am no expert here, but do have an opinion. Did you know that Google is currently running a beta of health records? I poked around there and didn't get the sense that their first go around will be life changing. I think that IBM is also working on a solution and probably a few other big players. This is good - let the competition begin.

However, do not let Uncle Sam develop it or think they own it. That would be horrible! Let it be done privately on the open market. This is a better way.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Better Love

On Valentine's day, there is lots of talk about love, about candy, flowers, cards with hearts on them, etc.  But what is love really?  I ran across this video on the web site today and couldn't help but be amazed as people's definitions, or attempts to define love.  Watch it...

Now, contrast this to the one who created love.  He defines it this way.  It's not only a better love, it's the best love anywhere at anytime, period.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Socialism or bust

That's what the President and his men think. Socialism or bust. They apparently don't believe in free enterprise and true capitalism. They believe that a socialist economy, where the government controls corporations and banks, is better than free enterprise and letting the natural consequences of peoples corruption and mistakes occur. Or why else would they want to print nearly a trillion dollars to "stimulate" the economy? Why else do they think they can make the country better by creating more government jobs? They apparently think that the government is a god that can save everyone from all trouble!

This whole thing was caused by lending money to people who couldn't afford to pay. Now the government is going to borrow tons of money with no reasonable way to pay for it. There's an old saying that goes "If a bank lends $500 to a man who can't pay it back, the man suffers. If a bank lends $5,000,000 to a man who can't pay it back, the bank suffers." But what if the government borrows $1,000,000,000,000 and can't pay it back? Everybody suffers.

I really believe that the government cannot spend this country into prosperity. That is really upside down economics. What this country needs is confidence. Confidence that the government is not going to go broke. Confidence that inflation won't hit double digits in the next few years. Confidence that real change is ahead. Instead, we get the same thing from Washington - the same spending without knowing where the money is coming from, the same adding to an already humongous debt without a plan to pay for it. This is not change, but simply more of the same, just with bigger numbers attached than ever before!

What this country needs is encouragement and incentives to save money, to buy things with cash not credit, to invest money, and to be generous to those in need. Our current tax system punishes people for saving and investing by taxing their interest on savings and capital gains. Our income is taxed like it belongs to the government instead of to us. We need a new tax system that rewards people for doing the right things.

I've read about a better way of doing taxes called the Fair Tax. You should buy the book and read it too. It would be real stimulus and, in my opinion, would be real change that would encourage saving, investing, and would eliminate the dreaded income tax.

In the meantime hang on, because our government will again be sending us money that it doesn't have so that we can buy things made in foreign countries. Why don't they just send us a coupon for a new car from Ford, GM, or Chrysler? This might prop them up for a while!

Monday, February 2, 2009

He would be sixteen

He would be 16 years old tomorrow.  Except he's not.  He never took his first breath.  I would be taking him to get his drivers license. I would be worried about his safety, about him wrecking my car, about him driving too fast, about the music being to loud and distracting. Except I'm not.

It's amazing to think back about our excitement of his coming birth. We tried so long and hard to get pregnant. Spent thousands on infertility medicine, Dr's visits, and procedures. It took many attempts over 5 years and finally she was pregnant. On June 1, 1992 we got the news. I called my Dad and told him - we both wept in our happiness on the phone.

Thirty nine weeks later he was born.  But not like we dreamed. Vasa Previa took his life. We were shocked and very upset. In my anger, I punched a hole in the Dr's wall. Not a great response, but it was how I felt.

God sustained my wife and I through it all. He'll do it again, I'm sure. Now I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.

Brandon - I love you and miss you.


Friday, January 16, 2009

The Swiss way to Health Care

I still can't get this health care topic off my mind... I've been reading about the Swiss health care system and it sounds very interesting. I won't go into a ton of details because you can more read about it here, among other places. I don't particularly care for their price fixing/negotiating but it is a place to start. Their employers don't pay for insurance but the individuals do. The Swiss are required by law to carry insurance, but they shop around for different plans that compete for your business. This seems a step in the right direction, but not yet there all the way.

Author Regina Herzlinger addresses the health care issues in the U.S. in her book "Who Killed Health Care" and has some great ideas about overhauling our current system. I'm just a regular Joe (not a plumber), but Regina is a Harvard Business School professor and she understands that we need a consumer driven model. I'm ok with employers subsidizing the premiums, but not with limiting our choices. Would we be ok with our employer picking our houses for us? Of course not, so why are we ok with the choice of one health insurance plan that is typically offered?

Angie's List is a pretty interesting website because they allow you to read and post reviews of various service providers including doctors and hospitals. This is a great way to provide visibility into the quality of care (and even the cost) by hearing about people's real experiences with their care. Doctors who have poor bedside manners will either have to change or go out of business. This would be good! Angie's List just needs to catch on a bit more for this to be truly effective.

I'm still convinced that a consumer driven free market approach will provide the missing transparency to the costs of care along with healthy competition for our business. Let's not be content with a government run, centrally controlled, and price fixed nightmare. I'm afraid that this may be what our new congress and president will want to offer us this coming year. Ugh! There really is a better way.
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