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by Quasit

Surviving the High-Deductible Health Insurance Labyrinth

12:09 am in Uncategorized by Quasit

For various reasons I am not going to use names in this post.

Piggy Bank with money

High deductible insurance seems designed to cost money through confusion.

Several years ago we (my family and I) were forced to change our health insurance from a classic HMO plan to a “high-deductible” one. That plan is effectively incomprehensible; ever since we were switched to that plan, we’ve been in collection or sued several times every year. As has everyone else – literally – that I have spoken to, who is on one of these plans. All of them. Every single person I’ve spoken to who is on a high-deductible plan has faced multiple medical collections and/or lawsuits. I am not kidding.

The cost has been staggering.

Now, the supposed principle behind high-deductible plans is to force medical consumers (i.e. everyone) to be “wiser”. To make better choices. Not to get wasteful and expensive MRIs, for example, when an x-ray will do just as well.

There’s just one problem with that noble concept: it’s bullshit. Who among us is qualified to know whether an MRI is more or less suitable than an x-ray for any particular case? A doctor, that’s who. And certainly not the vast majority of patients! Most patients couldn’t tell you the difference between an MRI and an x-ray if you pointed a gun at their heads.

But of course, the real purpose of such plans isn’t to make health consumers wiser. It’s to shift costs, away from the employer and health insurer, and onto – you guessed it – the patient. Never mind that since 1980 wages for the middle class and working class have flatlined or declined, while health costs have skyrocketed; we’re scheduled to get the shaft on medical costs nonetheless. Which is why medical bankruptcies have skyrocketed in recent decades.

As has, I strongly suspect, the medical collection industry. Who might be profiting from this explosion in medical costs and lawsuits? Somehow I doubt that it’s the middle class or the poor.

So here’s the most recent thing that happened to us. We got a collection letter from a local hospital. Teri’s doctor had sent her there for some tests a few months ago; nothing terribly unusual, just the kind of test that every woman probably ends up having done sooner or later.

Just to be clear, she’s fine. But there was good and sufficient reason for her doctor to order those tests – they were certainly appropriate and necessary. She’d had such tests before and they’d been fully covered without question.

But this time we got a bill from the hospital where she’d had the test for $1560.00. Need I say that we were horrified? I’ve been through hell with these medical situations before; the thought of going through all that again was really almost unbearable. Still, I girded my mental loins and plunged in.

There are several things to remember when you’re dealing with this sort of situation:

Read the rest of this entry →

by Quasit

The Day That NPR Lost Me

2:37 pm in Uncategorized by Quasit

A week or two ago I was doing the dishes and listening to NPR. It was a panel show, four experts chatting with a host. The topic was the Obama Administration’s drone warfare program.

As I busily washed the dishes, it slowly occurred to me that everyone on the show approved of the current drone program. Even the representative from a so-called human rights organization praised drones as superior to the alternative. And all of them agreed that the the only alternative to drone assassinations was all-out total warfare with massive artillery fire.

But that dichotomy is pure bullshit! Drones are being used to kill some people, including American citizens and minors, who are far from a battlefield and not engaged in action against the United States. It’s almost certain that in many cases such persons could be arrested and tried, if that was even appropriate. And in any case, the drone program is unaccountable to anyone – it gives the sole, godlike power of life and death to the Chief Executive and anyone that he designates – secretly, if he so chooses (and he does so choose).

We had a revolution against a King who faced far more strict checks and balances. And now? We’re entrusting absolute power – life and death without trial, accountability, or even public awareness – to an office which virtually every American will agree could be won at any election by some utterly irresponsible hack. Yet not a word is being breathed against this insane development.

The thing that really sent a chill down my spine was that not a single one of NPR’s experts or the host said one single WORD about the morality of the drone program. All they did was share happy horseshit about how good it was, how necessary unrestricted drone assassinations were to maintain global order and the global economy.

The final nail in the coffin came a few hours later. I was driving in the car, listening to another NPR news show. The announcer was discussing the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. He proclaimed, with an indulgent chuckle in his voice, that Brennan embraced “tough interrogation practices just like Vice President Dick Cheney”. At that moment I snapped. If someone had offered me the chance to watch that fatuous news-whore undergoing “tough interrogation practices” – or rather, since I’m not a whore and will call it what it is, torture – I would have seriously considered it.

But since the option wasn’t available, I reprogrammed my NPR pre-sets to music stations. They’ve lost me for good. It’s all I can do, and I’m all too aware that it won’t do a thing to stop the rapid transformation of the USA into a brutal surveillance and torture state. But I won’t stand by and listen to the elite’s propaganda as everything falls apart.

I’m absolutely furious at what’s been done to our national principles. I won’t support torture, a surveillance state, or assassination. That’s not the America that I was born into, and I did not agree to this. Read the rest of this entry →

by Quasit

FL Legislature Erases Key Item in History of Bush v. Gore

9:50 am in Uncategorized by Quasit

Bush v. Gore is ancient history. The results of the 2000 Presidential election in Florida are no longer considered to be an issue by the mainstream press; anyone who brings it up instantly dismissed as a kook, a conspiracy theorist, a somewhat stale joke.

And the inevitable rewriting of history has continued over the years. “Bush won, get over it” is probably the most common response to those who bring up the issue of hanging chads and the recount in Florida. In one critical case, the historical record has actually been erased – and that, in itself, tells us something interesting about the Florida recount.

In 2001 a consortium of newspapers hired an independent team of analysts to go over the ballots; the results have been made available to the public on the world wide web. The viewer selects options from the various counting methods possible and the results are then calculated and presented.

But that offers only a limited view of the possible outcomes of the election in Florida. What might we learn from a bigger picture? I was curious, so back in 2003 I made a chart of the results. He wins in 17 out of 24 scenarios!

Unfortunately the first image can’t be posted. You can view it on a copy of the blog post where I originally posted it; it’s the first image.

But perhaps we should take a more careful look at the data. Are all voting scenarios equally possible?

The answer, actually, is “no”. In 2000, Florida state law required that EVERY ballot which made the intent of the voter clear must be counted: Title IX, Ch. 101.5614.

Ah, but wait! If you clicked on that link, you may be puzzled. “The statute you have selected cannot be found”? What sort of law is that?!? Even the internet archive can’t dig up that page. The (Republican) Florida state legislature has most thoroughly erased any record of that statute.

But of course it’s hard to completely erase anything from the internet. And luckily a reporter captured at least some of the text of that statute:

From Title IX, Ch. 101.5614, Canvass of returns:

If any paper ballot is damaged or defective so that it cannot be counted properly by the automatic tabulating equipment, the ballot shall be counted manually at the counting center by the canvassing board. The totals for all such ballots or ballot cards counted manually shall be added to the totals for the several precincts or election districts. No vote shall be declared invalid or void if there is a clear indication of the intent of the voter [emphasis added] as determined by the canvassing board. After duplicating a ballot, the defective ballot shall be placed in an envelope provided for that purpose, and the duplicate ballot shall be tallied with the other ballots for that precinct.

(Click on image to see clear results)

A number of the disputed votes in the Florida election were “overvotes”, in which a (confused) voter both marked the box next to the name of their candidate and wrote that candidate’s name in. In such a case, the intent of the voter was clearly to vote for that candidate. We must therefore eliminate all scenarios which exclude those valid votes. The result:

This is quite a reversal of fortune! George W. Bush has gone from a 17-7 advantage to a 5-7 disadvantage. Very illuminating. But perhaps an additional look at the data would be appropriate. Is there any other case in which the intent of the voter is clear?

Well yes, there is. Remember those annoying fill-in-the-box standardized tests from school? If you haven’t run across them, optical ballots are basically the same thing. You need to fill in the box completely or else the scanner can’t read them. Unfortunately a number of voters only put a checkmark or a line in the box next to their candidate’s name, but their intent is nonetheless quite clear, and thanks to that darned Title IX, Ch. 101.5614, we must eliminate those choices which do not count those valid votes.

(Click on image to see clear results)

And so:

In all the scenarios in which Florida voting law is obeyed, then, George W. Bush ONLY wins if dimpled chads are counted and the decision of the three judges is unanimous. Since the Bush team itself mocked the very idea of dimpled chads, this at the least places the legitimacy of the election in serious doubt. Read the rest of this entry →

by Quasit

Cassandra speaks!

12:58 am in Uncategorized by Quasit

Take it easy, everybody! You’re missing the big picture. Take a minute and consider the historical trend.

What any of us do with our votes doesn’t matter. We’re dealing with levels of ignorance and stupidity in the general population which cannot be fixed by an election. Only pain will change the public mind: sustained, massive pain for many years. That’s the education they need. And it’s what they’ve been working towards, in cooperation with the financial and power elites, for 32 years now. It’s an old story for the human race, and not a funny one: we must live through domestic terror and brutal dictatorship when we forget as a culture why we rebelled against the last fascist state. Call it a refresher course, if you like.

So don’t fuss. It won’t change anything. And you’ll need that energy for day-to-day living when America falls apart.

by Quasit

A Moderate Proposal: The Sacrificial Generation

12:51 am in Uncategorized by Quasit

Washington pundits and the major political parties all agree: the greatest threat facing America today is the budget deficit. We’re spending too much on social programs, and there’s simply no way to match income to outgo under the current state of affairs. It is therefore time for a radically moderate proposal: We must sacrifice a generation.

Just as “The Greatest Generation™ ” sacrificed so much in the struggle against Nazism during World War II, so now our generation must sacrifice in our far more terrible battle against Terrorism. Wait, I meant the deficit. That is, the Deficit!!! Yes, that looks properly scary. (Note to self: is a bigger, more evil-looking font available? Look into it. Something vaguely Middle-Eastern would be best.)

So I propose that Congress should act immediately. As soon as possible, all non-military government expenditures should cease. This includes state, county, and city governments as well. All public officials (other than Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court) will be required to wrap up all ongoing business as quickly as possible, place all government property and buildings for sale, and leave office. Public police and fire departments will close; they will doubtless soon be replaced by far more cost-effective and efficient private police and firefighters. Likewise, all public schools will be closed and their assets sold to efficient private corporations.

Pensions supposedly owed to former public officials, police officers, firefights, teachers, etc. will be cancelled as part of the Sacrificial Generation program. Ditto for health insurance, of course. All public health programs will cease, as will every program not directly associated with the military. Military pay will be frozen for all pay grades below one-star General during the next twenty years. Health benefits for veterans must cease, as must retirement pay for all sub-General ranks; our noble returned and wounded heroes will doubtless feel honored to know that they are able to give their all once again in support of their country, this time by literally giving their all.

(If you’re wondering why we will continue to pay our Generals and give them top-quality health care…well, we have to be able to retain talent, after all! It takes a lot more connections skill to be a General than a meatbag noble hero trooper or Marine. Of course, our unpaid men in uniform will still be fed and given shelter whenever possible – as well as all the bullets and explosives necessary!)

But the program doesn’t stop there. All public and private-sector unions will be dissolved for a twenty-year period. Any agreements made with those former entities will be null and void. All employment contracts will be nullified, except for critical clauses such as non-disclosure and non-competition, of course. Employees are welcome to negotiate new pay rates and benefits (if any) under the new Sacrificial regimen – on an individual basis only, of course!

Since it is likely that health insurance enrollment may decline somewhat as a result of the program, some countermeasures will be taken to retain America’s position as the world’s foremost provider of high-cost – that is, high-quality health care. A new fee will be imposed on non-job-creators; this may be arbitrarily defined as anyone making less than $1,000,000.00 per year (or in possession of assets less than, say $5,000,000.00 in current market value). The fee will be transferred directly to the health-insurance industry. For ease of use, the fee will be equal to 200% of the annual income tax rate. Of course, non-job-creators are cautioned that the fee is in no way to be considered a “tax”. Tax increases are, as all agree, unthinkable! Nor is it a “fee” in the sense that those who pay it are entitled to expect any service (medical or other) in exchange. This is the Sacrificial Generation, after all!

Some may wonder how the fee (as well as taxes) will be collected, since all government bureaucracy other than the Presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court will have been abolished. The answer is, of course, obvious: the military will collect all fees and taxes, and will in addition be responsible for determining the accuracy of the taxes paid by all non-job-creators. In the interests of efficiency the military will be empowered to use data mining and drones to collect necessary information, and to employ any and all means necessary to collect delinquent accounts – including, of course, military force.

As for job-creators, all taxes on these vital citizens (both corporate and other) will be immediately abated as a matter of critical national security – after all “it’s the economy, stupid!”. They too will be making a sacrifice, that of bearing the pressure of responsibility for the care-taking of America’s economic prosperity. We are sure that through the divine providence of the free market, they will turn America into a shining beacon of prosperity within those vital twenty years!

And once the twenty years of sacrifice are up, what a paradise America will be! The world will gasp in wonder at the utopian society which will have been achieved through the selfless, involuntary sacrifice of the Sacrificial Generation.

And if not, our military will make them gasp.