Archive for November, 2013

santaturkey

When I started to think about what I was going to write this weekend, I thought for sure this post would be titled “War On Thanksgiving”.  I thought it was a oh so clever twist on the so-called War On Christmas and the observation that it’s really Thanksgiving that is drawing the societal short straw.  Unfortunately, a Google search reveals that this is not clever at all and that many, many people have noticed the consumerism of Christmas encroaching on the Thanksgiving holiday (K-Mart opening on 6 a.m., that’s right, a.m. as in morning, on Thanksgiving must have given it away!).

So instead of whining about Wal-Mart and Best Buy and people who for some reason think elbowing their way through crowds for “bargains” on electronics is good sport, I thought I would write a positive post about what makes Thanksgiving so great (right there with Christmas in my opinion):

  • Its simplicity.  It’s just a holiday where we give thanks for the people and things we have.  That’s all.  It doesn’t say what things you should appreciate.  It doesn’t tell you that you should get new things to celebrate or give to others.  It’s just a celebration for what we have.
  • It’s all American.  You want to know who celebrates Thanksgiving?  The United States and Canada.  That’s it.*  With that being the case, it would seem that we should take some national pride in this holiday. (*Yes, if you research Thanksgiving, you will see that other countries celebrate holidays they may call Thanksgiving.  But I think you will find those have more in common with our Memorial Day or Independence Day than our Thanksgiving.)
  • It’s inclusive.  Anybody can give thanks to the people and things we have.  It’s not a religious holiday (though it can be if you want). It’s not a holiday just for a certain subsection of the people.  It’s a holiday for all of us.
  • Its food.  Sure, other holidays have food.  Your 4th of July hot dogs, your Halloween candy, your Christmas ham and cookies.  But the food we have for those holidays we eat all the time.  But Thanksgiving has food that if not exclusive to it, it’s at least rare we eat outside of that holiday.  Turkey.  Not deli turkey, but whole turkey (roast it, fry it, whatever, it’s all good!).  Stuffing.  Cranberry sauce.  Sweet potatoes with marshmallows.  Green bean casserole (may be the only reason condensed mushroom soup and French’s french fried onions still exist).  Pumpkin pie!
    Mmmm....pie.

    Mmmm….pie.

    I’m hungry!

  • Football.  The NFL has its now traditional three games on Thanksgiving.  I prefer college football over NFL football, but Thanksgiving is the rare day where I will usually catch a little of the NFL.  But for college football, it’s like an extended weekend of football!  Starting on Thursday night with the “Egg Bowl” rivalry between Ole Miss and Mississippi State, right through Friday and Saturday, it’s college football galore.

So why not instead of going into the hustle and bustle of shopping and fighting with strangers this next weekend, enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday relaxing with your family and friends and appreciate those we know and love?  Trust me, the stores aren’t going to give up on you if you don’t show up on Black Thursday/Friday!  Happy Thanksgiving!

 

cancellation

Wading through all the rhetoric, I’ve come to these conclusions:

  • Health insurance companies are trying to take advantage of the situation – Health insurers have been sending out notices cancelling plans.  In those notices, they blame Obamacare for those cancellations.  They further offer new more expensive plans that the insured will be enrolled in if they take no action before a certain date.  However, they FAIL to mention the new insurance exchanges where not only they might find a cheaper, better option, but also might find that they qualify for credits toward their health insurance.  (Another ploy has been trying to pressure current insureds to renew their current plan or be force onto new, more expensive plans, once again without making it clear that finding another plan on the exchange is also an option.)
  • Any plan COULD have been grandfathered and remain with a few modifications – Plans in place prior to March, 2010 could remain, as long as they were modified to cover children through the age of 26, end lifetime coverage limits, provide a summary of benefits, end arbitrary cancellations, and have most of the money spent on actual health care as opposed to administrative costs and bonuses.  NONE of the other Obamacare provisions would apply.  (However, if a company opts to start making other changes to the plan, then yes, then they have to make it Obamacare compliant.  Insurers also can’t enroll anyone new into the grandfathered plans.)
  • A lot of people who “like” their plan only care that they have something they can call “health insurance”, even if their plan sucks – Prior to Obamacare, there was the existence of what was called “junk insurance”.  To be fair, the people who have these plans often don’t even know that their plan sucks, they just know they have “insurance”.  These plans often cover VERY little, and barely qualify as insurance at all.  (And sometimes what people are buying are “supplemental” plans, which are called “supplemental” because they are supposed to supplement other plans, not be the plan.)
  • The people going on television thinking they are getting ripped off by the law often are not actually getting ripped off – I’ve ran across two examples of people who have gone on tv as examples of being wronged by Obamacare, but once people walk them through their current plan and the options they have, they actually come out ahead.  The first example, the insured would indeed have to replace her $46 per month “supplemental” plan with a $97 per month plan.  The rub though is the $97 per plan is an actual health insurance policy with real coverage, not just some minor supplemental coverage.  So when this woman actually has health issues and is in need of services, the savings will be significant.  The second example, the insured could actually pay less ($194 per month versus $256 per month) for a plan with the same deductible, but lower maximum out-of-pocket limits and more coverage.  In other words, it’s a better plan for less premium.
  • But even with all that said, President Obama should have never said “if you like your current plan, you can keep it” – The fact of the matter is that some people were probably were aware that their plans were “junk”, but were still happy with it.  Also, there are certainly plans that were borderline compliant that people were happy with.  But I think maybe more importantly, that statement sent the message that as long as you have a plan, you have nothing to worry about.  So a lot of people were under the impression that they could just forget about it, when actually that hasn’t been the case.  In other words, they thought the law would either not affect them, or in as so much as the law would have a positive effect, it would just have that positive effect without them having to do anything, to shop around for a new plan.  And some are seeing that as a betrayal of trust.
  • And it makes me wonder yet again if the mistake here is trying to work within the current framework of insurance, or should health care even be in the private sector? – For most of us, insurance is a big hassle that we would just like to forget about.  When is the last time you looked at your policy?  (really any policy, health, auto, home?)  We get it because we know we need it, but we don’t really have the time to figure out all the ends and outs of it all.  I think for most of us, when it comes to health care, we just want to be able to know we can get the care we need without going into bankruptcy.  I am just not sure how well suited the health care industry is for what normally makes a free market system work.  Even in the examples above, those two consumers have media members walking them through their options.  Before that, they really thought they were getting screwed over.  Everyone else has to know to go to a website or make a call (a website that doesn’t work so well and from what I hear the customer service provided over the phone isn’t  always so great either) and then try to work through the complexities of insurance options on their own.  Add to that the totally nonsensical billing for hospital procedures, and it’s hard to have the knowledgeable consumer base to create a truly competitive market.
2016 Presidential candidate

2016 Presidential candidate

One thing that annoys me is that the “go-to” defense of members and defenders of the Obama administration (including Obama himself) when something bad happens is that he was simply unaware of it (but now that he knows, he’s as mad as anyone about it, blah, blah, blah).  Examples include:

  • He was supposedly unaware of the Affordable Care Act website issues until AFTER the website went live.  For this to be true, either the people running this thing outright lied to him about the progress of the website or they were too incompetent to know whether the website would work or not.  In either scenario, heads should roll.  The only other option is that President Obama didn’t even take enough of a passing interest in the project to get updates.   For something that has become known as Obamacare.  As in President Obama Care.  But probably not important to….Obama?
  • He was supposedly unaware that the NSA spying on world leaders.  Now I understand he is not going to know every action the NSA takes.  But in his meetings with the NSA, I would expect them to hit the high points.  Spying on world leaders would seem to qualify.  (Though with as much as has come out recently, I think the safest assumption is the NSA has decided it needs to know EVERYTHING about EVERYONE, and is acting accordingly without limits.)
  • He was supposedly unaware of the IRS scandal regarding conservative groups until he saw it on TV just like the rest of us.  Once again, you would think the President might get a heads-up regarding such things before it hits the news.
  • Other examples include:  The failed Fast and Furious ATF sting operation and the Justice Department obtaining Associated Press phone records.

I am not sure if the people defending him thinks this places the President in a good light (or at least a more innocent light) but it does not.  It makes him look incompetent.  It’s his job to stay on top of things.  It’s also his job to hire people who will help him stay on top of things, not keep him out of the loop.  You can’t effectively lead if you never know what is going on.  So if it’s a lie that he doesn’t know, it’s not an effective lie for absolving the President of responsibility.  And if it’s the truth (the scene from Independence Day where the President is informed that he didn’t know about aliens at Area 51 for “plausible deniability” reasons comes to mind), that’s even worse.  Because if you aren’t in the loop, you ain’t in charge!