Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Health Insurance is NOT Healthcare: The false debate

As we move ever faster towards effecting major changes in health insurance coverage under the guise of Health Care Reform it is critical that we make a separation in the debate: health insurance is NOT health care. No matter how many people have coverage, and no matter how many plans are available, health insurance does not and can not guarantee appropriate, cost efficient, effective care.

The massive changes that are being pushed through Congress are too narrow, too focused on coverage instead of care, and will do nothing but give more of us more of the same.

The only way to provide appropriate, cost efficient, effective care is to re-write the rules of the game, not just put more people into the system. This will include redefining the role of the health insurance company, supporting an open market for insurance, changing the way we think about and pay for health care, refocusing the education and practice of our medical professionals so the impetus is on preventative care versus acute care, and reducing the costs and professional burden of medical education and malpractice coverage. Obviously the devil is in the details but this is where it begins - not a rushed bill that really truly isn't reform at all.

  1. Commercial health insurance should truly be insurance
    We don't use our home or auto insurance for anything other than to repair damage caused by catastrophic events, so why do we treat health insurance any differently? We've become accustomed to using our health insurance to pay for all of our health care, whether it's a major heath care event, or a well patient checkup that could easily be paid for entirely out of pocket. Health insurance plans should reflect a catastrophic event coverage structure, such as $1,000,000 lifetime/$15,000 per 'health care event' with an annual total deductible, and monthly or annual premiums, like home or auto insurance (which we don't actually use unless we absolutely must).

    Health Care Event: A 'health care event' would be defined as any provided care related to a single disease state. If a patient sees a doctor 5 times a year for migraine treatment and monitoring, it would be considered 1 health care event. If a patient is seen in the emergency room for kidney stones and then follows up with a urologist 3 times over the next 6 months, that would also be considered 1 health care event.

    Healthy Person Benefits: Just like auto insurance companies offer 'good driver' benefits such as reduced premiums and better coverage, health insurance companies could also offer a 'healthy persons' benefit.

    Public Option: The public health insurance option would provide catastrophic coverage with lower premiums and deductibles based on income, but would not offer a full credit towards these costs. The patient will still be contributing to their health care costs.

    Medicaid & Medicare: The role of Medicaid and Medicare would become that of a safety net for those that can not afford commercial or public insurance.

    Claims Management: The patient could be responsible for submitting a claim to their insurance provider and be reimbursed after the service - like an auto claim. Health care facilities and providers could also opt to submit claims as well and could provide payment grace periods to their patients who submit their own. Claim forms would allow the claimant to provide proof of payment towards their plan's deductible.

    Triggering Event: Deciding when a claim is paid would be determined by the specific health insurance policy, as agreed to by the plan purchaser. It would no longer be a sometimes arbitrary decision made by a panel after the health care event. Everyone will already know what their health insurance will and will not cover and why.

  2. Non-catastrophic health care should be paid for by the patient
    Physicians and patients need to set prices for care, not insurance companies, and in order for this to happen the patient needs to pay for their health care. Currently a hospital or physician bills an insurance company for the service at the rate the insurance company allows, not at a real market driven rate. Once a health care provider is forced to actually set prices based on what the real patient market can bear, prices will go down. Health Savings Accounts are the best vehicle for putting the patient in the driver seat and allowing them, along with physicians, to set true market prices for care. Supply and demand needs to be part of this equation, not artificial prices and markets created by Insurance companies.

  3. Health Insurance companies should provide insurance, not medical decisions
    Insurance companies would be removed from the role of approving or denying point of care medical decisions, a role best relegated to the physician and health care providers. They no longer approve or deny health care, but pay claims as required by the patients' insurance plan - just like with home or auto insurance.

  4. An open market is the best option for reducing costs and providing appropriate benefits
    Health insurance companies would provide plans and benefits at-will, as the market allows. Any company that currently offers any kind of insurance, such as Geico or Allstate, would be allowed to offer commercial health insurance plans.

  5. The focus of health care will need to change from acute to preventative care
    Changing the focus of health care from acute to preventative care is paramount in changing the health care landscape and reducing costs.

  6. We need to cap malpractice awards and reduce the cost of education for health care providers
    There are other more effective means of punishing physicians and providers for willfully negligent care than through punitive awards. That said, litigation is not unnecessary for all negligent events. Capping awards however would reduce malpractice premiums across the board, while providing relief in limited cases to the patient population. We need to provide affordable education to physicians so they don't begin practice with $200,000 or more in debt, which in the end is paid for by the patient as the physician and their employer seek ways to pay for this cost.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Reduce Exposure to Cell Phone Radiation with Brain Beads Ferrite Bead

I've been seeing more and more articles and blog posts about the effects of cell phone radiation and the controversy over the effects of extended and long term exposure. I would say there are basically two camps in this argument, the cell phone industry which is pretty sure that because cell phone radiation is 'non-ionizing' that there isn't a problem, and the independent scientific community that is producing more and more research which seems to indicate that at the very least we don't know whether it's safe or not, while others say that it is not safe and precautions should be taken.

I have always assumed that holding a radio that operates in the microwave frequency range next to my brain couldn't be great, so I've always tried to use the speakerphone or a wired hands free headset, but it turns out that the wire can actually act like an antennae and can transfer radiation up to the face, ears and brain. Well, I found a solution and it isn't Bluetooth (which is still a radio sitting next to my brain).

The latest recommendations from Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Medical Correspondent, are for wired headset users to attach a small ferrite bead to the cell phone headset wire which effectively "kills" the radiation:

A ferrite bead is a clip you put on the wire of a headset. The concern is that the wire itself emits radiation into your ear. The bead is designed to absorb the radiation so you don't.

Another fan: Lawrie Challis, physicist and former chair of the Mobile
Telecommunications and Health Research Programme, a government panel in Britain.

They did tests at the University of York and found that under even the worst conditions, if you use a ferrite bead you can't even measure the radiation coming off the wire.

This common device kills the radiation.

(full article here:
I ran with her recommendation and started looking around on the web for a ferrite bead (which is a usually a small piece of ferrite cut in half, set inside a small locking plastic case that snaps over the headset wire) and everything I found was large and looked like a piece of industrial hardware - which I didn't want to have dangling from my hands free headset.

After a long search I finally found one that I want to share: Brain Beads at It's small, it's light gray so it matches my current headset, and it's pretty inexpensive for the benefit it offers.

Here is a photo of it attached to a hands free kit, right below where the left and right ear pieces split from the main wire.

They go for $12 which includes tax and shipping within the continental US.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Saudis Can't Find Buyers for Light Sweet Oil

President Bush is putting the political screws to Congress this week to get them to open offshore drilling and shale development to increase domestic production with the goal of lowering gas prices.

This is disingenuous - he knows it and the Saudis know it. The Saudis you say? The Saudis are scratching their heads at the high prices because they can't sell what they already have - nobody is buying right now according to a recent NY Times article about the development of the Khurais oil field. Last page, last 2 paragraphs:
With all this oil becoming available, the Aramco officials said they were baffled that the market seemed to be behaving as though there were a shortage.

“We’ve asked all the international oil companies that buy from us if they want more oil,” Mr. Nasser said. “But we can’t find customers.”
Basic economics tells us that prices should go down as supply increases and in light of the fact that the Saudis can't find buyers that must mean one of the following three:
  1. we don't need oil anymore
  2. there is already enough supply
  3. the markets are being manipulated
My vote is 3, the markets are being manipulated because choice number 1 is obviously false, and choice number 2 would mean lower prices and less fluctuation, which we aren't seeing.

Just recently the heads of the major airlines sent a letter to their frequent flier customers asking them to contact Congress and demand legislation that will but the brakes on speculative oil markets (market manipulation) because they believe that is the major reason for high oil and gas prices, not lack of foreign or domestic supply. Read the full letter from the airline executives.

Congress responded this week by starting the process of introducing a bill that would do exactly that. President Bush responded in kind, through his spokeswoman Dana Perino:

So while they can have the vote on speculation and they can move forward on that, we think that it is critical that we start focusing on the resources that we have in our country and the ways that we can access those resources in environmentally friendly ways, including oil shale, offshore oil drilling and opening up a small bit of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
While most of us would agree that we need to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, increasing our dependency on domestic oil isn't the solution - changing dealers isn't a solution to the addiction. Oil will fail eventually whether it comes from overseas or our national forests. In the meantime, using our nations resources to speed us along to that eventual day seems like a greedy reach from big business, and I'd bet that President Bush knows that is the path he is leading us on. I bet the Saudis know it too.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

YouTube Giving Up the Goods

Since YouTube is giving up the goods to Viacom, by which I mean all the data on whom is watching what, I've decided to do the same. I'm giving all the record companies, including the Indies, a list of everyone who may have inadvertently or advertently heard or listened to music that I may have legally purchased and subsequently played too loudly, at sometime. So if you heard me rocking out to Coldplay, I'm embarrased, and you're going to jail. Don't drop the iPod.

CNET has good news though - Viacom can't turn around and sue you or me for watching their programs on the YT. However nothing was said about not sending detailed viewing information to your mom or your boss. Interesting and you're fired AND grounded.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Obama Baby! '08

Some friends and I have researched and composed an email that we think will be interesting for people to forward and post on blogs. Our hope is that you will forward the copy below to all of your contacts and start a forwarding e-mail campaign. To go along with Obama's 'Change' theme, we have created an “It’s time for a change” onesie (get it?) and other baby merchandise at As you will read below, the merchandise fits within the theme of our forwarding e-mail campaign. Profits after the administrative costs of the website will be donated directly to the Obama 08' campaign.

To the estimated 4 million babies born in the United States this election year…

On the day you are born... According to current census data, over 40 million people in the U.S. were considered to be living in poverty, over 45 million people were without health insurance, and the national debt exceeded $9 trillion.

The cost of fighting one day in Iraq could provide health insurance coverage for a year to 380,900 uninsured children in America, immunize every baby born in the U.S. against measles, mumps, and rubella 14.2 times, and feed all of the starving children in the world four and a half times over.

By the end of your first year in the world... As you're just beginning to walk, you will be facing a 50% likelihood of the detonation of an atomic weapon by a terrorist on U.S. soil within 10 years.

At the end of 2007, Harvard professors Graham Allison and Douglas Dillon said, "Based on current trends, a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States is more likely than not in the decade ahead. As horrific as that vision is, the most important but largely unrecognized truth is that this ultimate catastrophe is preventable."

By the time you enter kindergarten... As you're learning to read, at least 40-50 million Americans will not read well enough to provide a wage to raise their standard of living above the poverty line.

Six million middle and high school students read significantly below their grade level. A full third of high school graduates do not immediately go on to college. American 15 year olds rank 28th out of 40 countries in mathematics and 19th out of 40 countries in science. Almost 30 percent of students in their first year of college are forced to take remedial science and math classes because they are not prepared.

By the time you are a senior in high school... As you are taking your SAT/ACT's and applying to colleges, you will be facing the reality that your first year of tuition will cost about $54,750.

College costs have grown nearly 40 percent in the past five years. In 2007, the average graduate left college with over $19,000 in debt. Between 2001 and 2010, 2 million academically qualified students will not go to college because they cannot afford it.

By the time you finish your last year of college... As you are looking at places to visit on your spring break, you will have 5-7 years left to see Glacier National Park before all the glaciers melt due to climate change.

As of 2007, Glacier National Park only has 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. In the Northern Hemisphere, thaws also come a week earlier in spring and freezes begin a week later.

By the time you're 30... As you are preparing to marry or start a family and plan for your financial future, the Social Security system will be able to cover only about 73 percent of benefits owed.

According to projections, in 2015, the Social Security program will begin to spend more money than it collects in taxes. At that point, the Social Security program will begin to collect on the money that it has loaned to the federal government. Between 2037 and 2075, the Social Security program is projected to run annual deficits totaling 30 trillion dollars.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rep. John Dingell - 'No' To Fuel Efficient Cars

The new head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. John Dingell, has voiced that increasing fuel efficiency in automobiles is not part of his agenda. From MSNBC:
Rep. John Dingell, who has been a U.S. lawmaker since 1955... gave a strong indication of what he did not plan to do: raise fuel-efficiency standards for U.S. automobiles.
“I’m not sure that there’s any urgent needs for us to address those questions,” Dingell told CNBC in an interview.
Is this part of the "New Direction for America"? It sounds an awful like the "Old Entrenched Paid For By Big Oil America" that we just threw out of Congress. Maybe Rep. Dingell didn't get the message. Please contact Rep. John Dingell to let him know your concerns regarding our current low fuel-efficiency standards and that we expect the new congress to enact tougher standards.

Molten Carbon