Buh-Bye, Sebelius

April 11, 2014

By Karen

Sometimes wishes do come true. Kathleen Sebelius, who personified ineptness in implementing the Affordable Care Act, is out. Obama actually had the nerve to lament that he’ll miss her “advice.”

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Sebelius a “forceful, effective, and essential” secretary.

Have they both been in a coma?

It’s regrettable that Sebelius was allowed to resign rather than get the boot to the backside she so richly deserved. But Obama seems eager to forget that on her watch, Healthcare.gov not only ran over budget by hundreds of millions of dollars, but the result was such a pathetic mess that it almost sank the whole initiative, it brought disgrace on the White House, and gave Republicans reason to dance with delight.

But, whatever. Good riddance. She’s gone.

Then Obama immediately taps Sylvia Burwell, his budget person, to replace Sebelius, calling her a “proven manager,” whatever the hell that means.

Burwell’s background shows no indication she’ll have any more ability than Sebelius to deal with what’s looming next for Obamacare — that people are going to find out they’re paying for insurance AND a lot of the medical bills they thought it would cover, and that it’s probably going to cost them a lot more next year.

According to the AP, when she wasn’t a budget bureaucrat, Burwell “served as president of Wal-Mart’s charitable arm and led the global development program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”

She may know something about nonprofits and worldwide health issues, but that doesn’t sound like squat when it comes to outsmarting greedy American insurance companies, which is what the administration has so far failed to do, except for eliminating lifetime caps and pre-existing condition exclusions.

I’d be willing to bet Burwell won’t have a good grasp on how the IT infrastructure that supports Healthcare.gov is supposed to work, either.

Like most CEOs, Obama’s probably thinks the agency’s head honcho doesn’t need to know the nitty-gritty. Like Sebelius, she’ll rely on “people” to handle the details.

Because that worked so well before.

Obama seems to be hanging his hat on the fact Burwell’s unanimous Senate approval for her current job now qualifies her to take on ANY position he cares to toss her in to.

And once again, he shows us he STILL doesn’t get the seriousness of this situation and the lives it has the power to ruin — financially and medically.

The hasty appointing of Burwell to steer us through the looming insurance quagmire Obama’s created reminds me of his feckless selection of big campaign donors to be ambassadors to countries they’ve never visited and know nothing about.

The insurance companies must be thrilled with this development.


ACA’s Unintended Consequence for Individuals

April 7, 2014

By Karen

Remember that Anthem individual health insurance policy I was afraid to give up for Obamacare? Good thing I kept it, because I couldn’t buy anything like it today.

The ACA doesn’t prohibit insurers from selling individual policies year-round, but its coverage requirements are causing insurers to stop selling ANY policies outside the government’s “open enrollment” window, which is closed from March 31 – November 15.

Because they are now prohibited from excluding pre-existing conditions, insurers fear that uninsured people who get sick will buy a policy to pay claims through the crisis, then drop it once they recover.

In essence, if an insurer can’t sell you a policy that won’t pay a penny on whatever you need the policy for, it doesn’t want you as a customer.

You may still be able to find a temporary policy that excludes pre-existing conditions, but under the ACA, you’d still be considered “uninsured” and subject to paying the tax penalty. So you’re screwed on all fronts.

From my perspective as a person self-employed for 12 years, if I were to lose my current insurance for any reason, the only way I could get new coverage would be to throw in the towel and go work for a company that offers health benefits.

And I’m pushing 60 in a job market that’s still tight as a tick (no matter what rosy stats DC spews about “job recovery”), so rotsa ruck with that.

This is yet ANOTHER reason why giving insurance companies an integral role in reforming healthcare was a colossal blunder — and the law has only made their behavior worse.

Now, people who could afford to pay a fortune for individual insurance outside the exchange can’t even buy it.

That’s why Obama’s screwball insurance mandate needs to be replaced by a single-payer system that covers everybody, every day.


Obama’s “Mission Accomplished” Moment

April 2, 2014

By Karen

After how it haunted George W. Bush, you’d think President Obama would be wary of claiming a premature victory, but no. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

In spite of myriad obstacles his breathtakingly incompetent administration created (WHY, after the website debacle, does Kathleen Sebelius still have a job?), 7.1 million Americans managed to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

If nothing else, their patience speaks volumes about the dire state of medical care in this country.

And Obama and Biden are gloating. Watch them, if you haven’t just eaten.

Anecdotal evidence is that, in some states, people are getting much-needed medical care with government-subsidized health insurance, and that’s fantastic. But for those of us in states where Republicans worked overtime to sink this law, and who earn just enough to qualify as middle class, there’s no joy in Mudville.

My premiums have gone up, my deductible is still high, and my coverage is no better, except I think the lifetime cap may be gone. But who cares? If I ever get sick enough to test that, I’ll be half-dead anyway.

It’s a matter of time before the horror stories start — and some already have — from people who discover they’ve been duped. They can’t keep their doctor because their policy’s super-narrow network excludes him.

They can’t get medications they need because the policy excludes them.

And they can’t get leading-edge treatments at the facility that offers them because it’s out of network.

Obama gave insurers 4 years to exploit every loophole to their advantage, and they did.

And it’s only a matter of time before we start reading that insurer profits are breaking all previous records. They’ve just been handed 7.1 million more victims customers and a steady stream of government subsidies.

Watching Obama crow about insurance is stomach-turning. He’s thrown us all under the bus to enrich insurers who were already raking in billions in profit that doesn’t buy a penny’s worth of medical care, and he’s delighted.

I can’t tell you how much I hate siding with Republicans on this, but Obama’s “mission” on healthcare is hardly “accomplished,” and he’s going to find out soon enough — unfortunately, at our, and probably the Democrats’, expense.

Universal healthcare, with its economies of scale, is the ONLY way to ensure that the max of what we invest in healthcare actually buys medical care. The system (it’s called Medicare) is already in place. Just expand it to let the rest of us in. If all the premiums we’re squandering on sustaining insurance companies were channeled into it, it would thrive. Exclusions and network constraints would disappear. Employers could end the expense and hassle of insuring workers. Workers wouldn’t be stuck in jobs they hate because of health insurance.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders agrees that access to medical care should be a right of all Americans, and he’s introduced the American Health Security Act of 2013 to get us there, which the Affordable Care Act never will.

It deserves a serious look.


Royally Scammed by Progressive Insurance Snapshot

March 26, 2014

By Karen

Lesson: Scratch the surface of any insurance company and you’ll find a thief whose raison d’être is to take your money and provide as little as possible — or, optimally, nothing — in return.

Shopping for a better deal on car insurance, I foolishly ordered Progressive Insurance’s Snapshot monitoring device and chauffeured it around for 30 days to see if I could earn a discount, which Progressive claims could be as much as 30%.

First, let me set the scene: I’m one step above little old lady who only drives to church on Sundays. I work at home, with no rush-hour commutes. I drive 3-4 times a week on errands on suburban roads, 99% during the day, and mostly within a 10-mile radius. I’ve put 80,000 miles on my car in 14 years (that’s 5,714 miles/year).

I figured I’d be a shoo-in for big savings. Here’s how Progressive explains it:

This video is untrue because Progressive also monitors acceleration (and turns — keep reading), and gives no feedback on time of day.

My driving during this time has been uneventful, yet Progressive projected me as behaving badly per 100 miles from the outset, a lead foot who stomps the brake every 7 miles. When I actually traveled 100 miles, the braking was lower, yet still considered “opportunity” for improvement (i.e., if you ever have to stop, you’re driving poorly):

Progressive-brakes

Progressive averaged my infrequent trips to 6.5 miles per day — placing me on the road and vulnerable to accidents — 7 days a week. In truth, it’s less than half that.

Progressive-mileage

And here’s the unexplained “rapid acceleration” graph…

Progressive-Acceleration

Knowing how I drove, it would seem that what Progressive’s underwriters consider “hard” braking and “rapid” acceleration are what the rest of us call “driving.”

As for turning, the Snapshot occasionally beeped like a panicked backseat driver when I was making perfectly reasonable 90-degree turns.

The 30 days were up today, and Progressive offered me 6% savings.

Progressive

But they still wanted to know more, like my marital status, level of education, home ownership, and Social Security number (which I withheld).

The result was that I qualified for NO DISCOUNT. ZERO.

Progressive-NoSavings

I never got a premium figure, so I’ll never know how Progressive stacks up to my current insurer. But Progressive can take their Snapshot device and…

CAUTION: If your driving ever involves making the car move, your chances of getting a discount from Progressive are probably slim to none, so keep them out of your business. Otherwise, for the rest of your freaking life you’re going to see Flo’s garish face popping up in ads on nearly every screen on the Net.

Progressive-Ad

And I’d be willing to bet Progressive will ultimately profit from my gullibility by selling the tidy trove of personal information they’ve collected.

All I can say is, shame on me.


Malaysia’s Latest Wishful Thinking on MH370

March 25, 2014

By Cole

If only wishing could make it so.

Malaysia’s prime minister announced yesterday that they’re presuming everyone on Flight MH370 perished in the southern Indian Ocean, based on some brand-new way to analyze the data that British satellite firm Inmarsat collected.

So, with no debris and based on some one-off calculation whose accuracy has never been tested, what’s next? To end the search because it’s getting too pricey?

If information about the pings can be believed, the story is that the plane probably flew until it ran out of fuel, then fell out of the sky. It must have hit the water pretty hard, which in other crashes has left bits of plane all over the place.

Hell, even RMS Titanic, SITTING on the water, left a huge debris field that was found by ships without any high-tech tracking devices, because large objects like planes and ships hold a lot of buoyant materials, and they tend to escape as the thing sinks and breaks up under pressure.

But somehow MH370 sliced through the water clean and intact, leaving not enough of anything for anybody to find and positively identify.

Now it seems that even China, who has seemed unusually quiet in spite of being home to nearly 2/3 of the passengers on board, is getting suspicious, demanding to see the satellite data in question. Does China have another theory about what happened?

At this point, I might consider the possibility that the plane was shot down, after it lost contact and veered off course, by some country that refuses to confess. The backlash over killing innocent civilians for no good reason would be terrible

If the Malaysian government is sincere about one thing in this matter, it seems to be in wishing to make all those screaming relatives shut up and go away, and I think they’ll say whatever it takes to make that happen.

But until I see definitive proof from the Indian Ocean, I still don’t think we’ve seen the last of that plane, and it won’t be a pile of debris.


Are MH370 Searchers on Squirrel Hunts?

March 23, 2014

By Cole

This week we learned that Malaysia Flight 370 flew more than 6 hours after it stopped communicating, performing maneuvers that required consciousness and skill. So all suspicion shifted to the 2 pilots.

That’s because China quickly declared its 152 citizens onboard couldn’t possibly be terrorists, and we know China’s word on security matters is golden. Michelle Obama and the girls are over there now to prove how much we love and trust China.

And those 2 Iranians traveling on stolen passports with one-way tickets bought with cash were also dismissed immediately. Nope, nothing suspicious about them.

So two pilots whose personal lives, by all accounts, seemed normal and on track just up and decided to kill themselves and 237 people after taking one last extended joy ride.

NBC correspondent Robert Hager doesn’t buy it. And neither do I.

In this post-9/11 era, where government spies supposedly know everything about everybody, and we have satellites that spotted Osama bin Laden walking around his compound, we’re supposed to believe that a jet liner can make itself disappear in thin air and fly for thousands of miles without ANYBODY noticing.

I still believe the plane took the northern route and flew over a bunch of dicey countries who are playing it close to the chest because they’re involved OR they’re too ashamed to admit they let this huge mysterious aircraft fly over and didn’t bat an eye. Would YOU blab to the world you got caught with your pants self-defenses down?

Personally, I think many countries (including the U.S.) know a LOT more, and the truth is so damning, they’re willing to lie and play this elaborate charade to keep the media distracted with “something” while they figure out what to do about who’s got the plane.

Just today, the French took their turn throwing the stick for the media to fetch. “Deploy the fleet. There’s a wooden pallet in the water!”

It’s simply too loony to believe that ANYBODY, either a deranged pilot or terrorists, would choose to “make a statement” by ditching a plane where nobody could ever find it or determine who caused it to crash.

Plenty of countries in that part of the world would love to get their paws on a fully-functioning aircraft they could load up with bombs and use to launch a more spectacular attack than 9/11 — and do it while our backs are turned looking for squirrels in the Indian Ocean.


A Cat’s Theory on Flight MH370

March 14, 2014

By Cole

After sitting many hours this week with paws pensively curled, reading and watching news unfold on this “greatest mystery in modern aviation history,” I’ve got some ideas.

Ground sources lost contact with the plane less than an hour after takeoff, yet the plane continued transmitting pings for 4 hours. And military radar may have spotted it 45 minutes after last official contact.

They think it deliberately turned west and continued on a route plotted between established waypoints, which would indicate carefully premeditated effort to further avoid detection.

It seems that mechanical failure should be the most far-fetched scenario now. Maps showing how far the plane could have traveled in 4 hours include a LOT of land.

No wreckage or bodies have surfaced in a week, either near the oil slicks nor anywhere else.

If it was a third-party hijacking or sabotage, why crash the plane where nobody could ever find it, ascertain what happened, or who did it? The act would become totally pointless.

I think all signs indicate the plane landed somewhere, intact, and a group of terrorists are holding 239 hostages, getting more giddy with every hour of the futile search they watch on CNN.

We don’t know how many hundreds of millions of dollars the countries searching will have to squander before the perps think it’s enough to reveal themselves.

Perhaps the world will unwittingly tip the bad guys’ hand by losing interest and giving up. When CNN starts saying “MH370” and “Amelia Earhart” in the same sentence, the terrorists had better speak up before nobody gives a damn.

We just saw Putin flip the world the bird by invading Crimea. I suspect this missing plane could be Al Qaeda’s way of announcing, “We’re back in the game, baby!”

It would have been Step One on board to confiscate all electronic devices so the passengers would have no way of contacting help. If they’re now on an island or in some other remote location, such devices probably wouldn’t work anyway.

I’m hoping I’m right because it means that those innocent people still have a chance of surviving this. Rescuers just need to quit playing in the water and go find them.


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