Entire Generation's Inheritance Going To Pay Parents Medical Costs

Today's New York Times has a good article explaining how many in the younger generation are not going to be receiving much, if any, of an inheritance from their middle-class parents. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/21/busine ss/yourmoney/21money.html

The money that they might have received in many other societies, elsewhere, here is being siphoned away by the rapidly escalating costs of medical care and other increased costs that did not exist for generations past (who typically died much earlier, for example, when Social Security was instituted in 1934, the average lifespan was 63.)

This leads me to speculate on where this all is taking us.
Obviously, the well-to do - who often have long term care insurance, annuities, etc, and who can afford those costs and then some, can still expect substantial windfalls due to the low inheritance tax, which leads to extreme concentration of wealth (at the extremes -  as the US is becoming a so called "M society")

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Job Sharing: An Idea Whose Time Has Come - Perhaps Even For The Presidency?

just kidding

(I think whoever wins the popular vote should get the Presidency..)

But the idea of job sharing would enable us to put off dealing with the disappearance of jobs for at least two or three years more and it would also give stressed people more time to live their lives, since jobs are increasingly demanding. They would have to liev on less, but they would get benefits.

Sometimes called "Flex-ecutives" people who share jobs are often better at the jobs they share than a single, harried executive. Two heads are better than one.

Here is an example..

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cg i?f=/c/a/2008/06/09/MN3C10KV8E.DTL

Another option to improve work-life balance is an idea borrowed from the academic world, the sabbatical. After several years of continuous employment, the employee can take a long (sometimes paid, sometimes unpaid) work-related time off (to work on a personal project, write a paper, do research, etc. )

Some other companies (like NASA, for example) allow workers to devote typically one fifth to one quarter of their time to long term, company oriented projects that they think up, (with management buy-in) allowing them to contribute ideas which otherwise would not be done.

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The 20% (Of All Of Us) Obama Can't Afford To Abandon or Lose

Last night I was reading another story about how, EVEN now - when Hillary Clinton has bowed to pressure and endorsed Obama, still, approximately 20% of the likely Democratic voters
refuse to say they will vote for him

Well, that 20% figure keeps coming up again and again, and I think that it represents the 20% of Americans who have chronic illnesses.  As we know from Austan Goolsbee, Obama's healthcare plan, like Jim Cooper's 1994 plan, Tenncare, and the MA state healthcare plan, a consistent 20% of those currently uninsured are uninsured because chronic illnesses have rendered insurance very expensive for them.

That 20% are the chronically ill and many of them are also the so called 'uninsurables'. Basically, they are people with often common, but increasingly expensive illnesses. Their only common denominator is that as the price of drugs rises, and the political and economic clout of the American middle class declines, their often manageable conditions are increasingly seen as costing 'too much' to treat by insurers. Which means that people who were doing okay last year, find that this year, they get left out in the cold, abandoned.

And apparently, also abandoned by Obama. (Hillary would have covered them, and limited out of pocket, uncovered expenses too, which means the difference between bankruptcy and solvency for millions of people)

These illnesses can be common illnesses like athsma, hypertension, etc. but they typically require drugs to manage them. When people lose their jobs, if they dont find another job in a short period of time, and COBRA runs out, or they cant afford to pay the full cost of their insurance, which is often more than they realize it is, then they become forced to look for insurance on the so called open market. Everyone who shops for individual insurance pays a lot, but some find it almost impossible to get. basically, that group is everyone who has been using the healthcare benefits, sometimes even the perfectly healthy. People who have been to the doctor more than around once a year often find that they have to pay more for insurance. Obama basically classifies normal families as families without health issues.

What happens, though when you don't have a chronic illness, but you have seen the doctor for things that come up. Self employed or even employed people whose employers dont buy insurance for them, people who have had spider bites or people who have called the doctor over minor medical issues find themselves paying far more for insurance.

This is perfectly legal, just like charging people more for drivers insurance who have tickets is. It enables the insurance companies to charge 'normal families' less, they say.

They feel that this is not 'discrimination' it is how the insurance business works. (But it has the effect of making middle class people these days terrified of seeing the doctor. THAT IS NOT THE WAY THINGS SHOULD BE! But it is, and even if Obama can overcome the WTO rules and implement his plan in 2012, Obama proposes to keep it that way. Insurance is priced by risk, to the insurer. Or if he forces them to insure everyone who asks of the same age at the same price, insurance costs will go up a lot of everyone. Thats the obscene cost of not havig a mandate! Its unavoidable!)

That is the hard reality of risk-priced insurance.

But, what about the 20%? Again, that 20% isn't just the stubborn. Its the same percentage of us who know we are being abandoned. yes, we are expensive. But more and more people fall into the category every year. You may be well now, but its likely that even you, the reader, will be one of us soon. We are all in that 20%.

That includes both those who to insurance companies are 'uninsurable', and those who they might insure, if they paid what they consider to be a fair price. (The raw cost to treat them plus the profit margin, plus a buffer that is related to the likelihood of a flareup that could cost still more)

That is what Elizabeth Edwards was talking about when she mentioned that neither she nor Senator McCain would be able to buy insurance if they were not rich. Why? Because both she and Senator McCain are cancer survivors. Once somebody has had cancer, they find it hard to switch jobs, they cant do anything that risks a period in which they dont have insurance. If they get laid off, they often find it very hard - often impossible to find insurance because they are not a risk, they are a known loss.


Now, Obama's advisor Austan Goolsbee
that neither Obama nor Hillary could afford to do it, but Hillary did the math and showed that she could, with her mandate. Nobody is arguing that it is possible any other way.
Not even presumptuous nominee Obama.

What I find is interesting, is that THAT 20% seems suspiciusly close to the 20% who refuse to vote against their own interests and vote for a small chance for adoption, eventually of a healthcare plan that probably will not help them! Can you blame them!? NO.

Would you put a loaded gun to your own head and pull the trigger?

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McCain's Healthcare "Cost Cutting" May Have Unintended Cost Nightmare Attached To It

I was just doing some research on John McCains's healthcare proposals and I came across something which I think is VERY important. Right now, there are very few international companies in the US healthcare market, which is apparently good.. for the reasons explained in the following..

Obviously, trade agreements are a mixed bag. However, they can have hidden gotchas, which often, few of us understand. However, we would expect Presidential candidates to know far more than average citizens about these agreements. Which is why the following is -perhaps- surprising!?

John McCain wants - under the guise of saving us money, wants us to create a "national health care market" that would "facilitate entry of more foreign health care providers" into the US market. Well, there could be a huge hidden cost to that. It could pre-empt alternative methods of cutting costs, ones which have been proposed by both Obama and McCain. For example:

McCain Proposal for National Health Care Market Would Raise Cost of Removing U.S. Health Care from WTO Jurisdiction

McCain has proposed the development of a "national health care market" that would facilitate entry of
more foreign health care providers and thus make it far more costly for the United States to withdraw
the health care sector from WTO jurisdiction. While McCain has provided few details about the
proposal, implementing a real national insurance market would inherently require greatly reducing the
role of states, for instance with the federal government taking control of licensing and standards now
under state authority.
Pre-empting the authority of U.S. states in this area is a key demand of foreign insurance companies in
the context of the WTO's Doha Round of negotiations.42 European and other foreign insurance firms
have long considered U.S. state-level regulation of the insurance market to be a market access barrier
because it requires that they must obtain licenses in each of the 50 states in order to provide insurance
services on a national basis.43 Since the insurance sector and health services are already covered under
the GATS, new federal law that would preempt such existing state authority would facilitate the entry
of foreign service-providers into the U.S. market. "

HOWEVER....now read closely...

"Once the flood gates are open and many foreign
health insurance and health service providers are in the U.S. market, it would be significantly more
costly for future administrations to remove the health care sector from WTO coverage, as all WTO
nations with firms in the U.S. market or with an interest in the market would have to be compensated
under WTO rules.44
Unless U.S. health care services are withdrawn from coverage under various trade rules, federal
and state governments' future abilities to effectively regulate the delivery of health care services,
implement health care reform measures designed to expand access, and reduce the cost of health
care could be stymied. Because the United States must provide compensation under WTO rules
before removing U.S. health care policy from WTO jurisdiction, quick action to do so will be
much less costly, before more foreign insurance and health care providers enter the U.S. market."

That was taken from a report on the chilling impact of our existing trade agreements on the promises made by the nominees that came out a few months ago..

Presidential Candidates' Key Proposals on Health Care and Climate Will Require WTO Modifications

In this case, eliminating state regs and thereby encouraging foreign companies to enter the US health insurance market, could cause an presumptively unintended permanent lock-in! One that would be very expensive to leave- very expensive!

Tonight is 'the night that all Americans became one'

The New York Times has an
today about the incredible sense of joy felt by Americans of African descent over the nomination of Barack Obama.

Clearly, regardless of whatever happens in November, his nomination alone is helping heal the wound of racism, and that, in and of itself is a beautiful and important thing, although I don't think that many people have considered some of the other implications of his candidacy - healthcare implications - and their affordibility. (The news coverage on Obama's healthcare plan has been terrible, giving people the implication that Obama's 'plan' is similar to Hillary's. It isn't, it could end up costing the sickest one fith of Americans many, many, many times more per year. No limit to how much more.)

The article goes on to query a large number of African Americans from around the country and the consensus is that the nomination of Obama represents a watershed of sorts for black people, meaning that they can no longer say that they are excluded from the mainstream of life. Hopes are that there will be a change in attitude among both white and black people about the future.

Its worth reading.

Many Blacks Find Joy in Unexpected Breakthrough
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/05/us/pol itics/05race.html

As many know I have supported Senator Clinton in her bid towards the Presidency. I have been doing this because I saw a willingness to help the poor in her policies that I didn't see in Senator Obama's.

I sincerely hope that Senator Obama will change his positions so that his campaign resembles more closely in reality the image that people have of him.

In particular I would like to see Senator Obama adopt a progressive, WORKABLE position on healthcare. Senator Obama's current plan has HUGE problems that will become obvious if it is ever attempted.

(It probably won't even get that far - :( because now that Senator Obama has locked himself into this position, experts will throw up their hands and say 'it can't work so how could we try it'?)

"adverse selection" AND Obama

Lets PRAY that that wasn't his intent all along!

There's more...

Bad Publicity Embarasses WalMart Into Making An Exception To Policy For Brain-Damaged Woman

The New York Times today has an article "
Injured Woman Wins Wal-Mart Saga

about the positive effect extensive blogosphere publicity has had in embarassing WalMart out of taking the money that a brain injured woman had won in court after she had been hit by an inadequately insured truck..

As most of us probably already know, WalMart had a clause in its insurance policy that is incresingly common in corporate healthcare policies, that gave them as the right to "subrogation". This means to sue to seize any lawsuit awards won by insurees to reimburse the corporation for money they had spent for her medical care.

This second award was larger than what she had actually ended up with, leaving her both brain damaged, seriously injured and in need of extremely expensive care, and in debt.

A week after she lost her second court case - the lawsuit with WalMart, her son was killed in Iraq.

This evidently made her case unique, and news worthy.

MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann, outraged at WalMart - took on her case as an example of Walmart's infamous greed. Over the weeks, Olberman repeatedly brought the story up. Finally in April, there was an announcement from WalMart. Olbermann had apparently succeeded in embarassing WalMart into making an exception to their policy in Shank's case.

Deborah Shank, who was a shelf stocker at WalMart who had purchased company insurance - and later was hit by a truck while she was an employee, but was 'insured'. Her coverage included the now infamous clause, which WalMart claims is to protect their assets so that they can be used to help 'current employees'. Obviously, after she suffered severe brain damage when her car was hit by a truck, she could no longer work at WalMart. After fighting a long fight to get the money from the trucking company, winning a fraction of what she needed, and then being sued, by WalMart, fighting WalMart for it and losing, will get to keep the money to pay for at least some of her medical care.

(She still requires 24 hour medical care and will for the rest of her life.)

"The tactic, apparently, is not unusual. Many health plans include a "subrogation" policy that allows the plan to recover costs if a covered worker ever receives damages in a settlement related to the injury."

After they won the case, WalMart issued this statement:

    "This is a very sad case and we understand that people will naturally have an emotional and sympathetic reaction. While the Shank case involves a tragic situation, the reality is that the health plan is required to protect its assets so that it can pay the future claims of other associates and their family members. These plans are funded by associate premiums and company contributions. Any money recovered is returned to the health plan, not to the business. This is done out of fairness to everyone who contributes to and benefits from the plan. The Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal of the case, which concludes all litigation. While Wal-Mart's benefit plan was entitled to more than the amount that remained in the Shank trust, the plan only recovered the funds remaining in that trust."

Evidently, now, after Mr. Olbermann's repeatedly holding them up publicly as morally wrong in this situation, and after fighting her family for the money in court for several years, and now winning, WalMart has now decided, that even if they are legally 'within their rights' to recover what is left of her money, since they won the judgement, that the bad publicity in this case is bad for business. They will let Deborah Shank keep the $216,000 that remains to apply towards her future medical expenses and will not seek restitution of the over $250,000 she has already spent.

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Evictions on the Rise Throughout The Nation, Prop 98 appears to be LOSING in CA.

The New York Times has an article today

In South Florida, Eviction Spares Few
that is reminiscent of the scenes depicted in Michael Moore's first film, Roger and Me. (which is about Flint, Michigan) It seems that both Michigan and Florida have a BIG problem with evictions these days. Lots of people are losing their homes.

Todays NYT article is about how evictions of the poor and middle class are rapidly on the rise in Florida. Evidently, the backlog between the filing of papers and the sheriffs arrival to put the belongings of poor families out on the street is increasing to two weeks or more.

""We do evictions, trash outs, rehabs" a contractor said.. Banks are seizing homes that are in foreclosure, and landlords are evicting tenants who have fallen behind in their rent.

"We work seven days a week"

Business for pro-eviction companies and businesses appears to be booming, a bright spot in an otherwise dismal economy..

"customers seemed to be lining up. When the eviction contractors were asked if they saw any sign of a turnaround, of their market's bottoming out, their answers were clear.

"We see it getting worse," Mr. Fedor said. "And worse. And worse."

"In the first three months of this year, Broward County tallied 3,043 eviction requests -- more than it has received in the same period since at least 1999, and an increase of 54 percent over last year. In Miami-Dade, landlords filed for 4,726 evictions from January through April, up 1,157 from the first four months of last year."

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A good SCIENTIFIC reason to NOT vote for Obama in November IF the nomination is NOT FAIR

Update [2008-6-3 21:0:49 by architek]:These articles are about the evolution of rationale for moral behavior and the REASONS to apply long-term incentives supporting honesty and cooperation in human behavior. And the reasons to punish those who cheat.

What these papers are about -

Its like the old debate between democracy and fascism. Does might make right? Does crime pay? Different people often have different answers.

One of the responders to this post - the only one who seems to have understood it, (see "Winners don't publish") holds up the contents of a recent letter to the editor of Nature with its justification that the cost to a society of sanctioning morally bankrupt behavior is too great. However, thousands of years of experience and a large body of PUBLISHED research, as well as the behavior of human society suggest otherwise.

Nature 415, 137-140 (10 January 2002)
| doi:10.1038/415137a; Received 5 October 2001; Accepted 5 November 2001

Altruistic punishment in humans

Ernst Fehr1 & Simon Gächter2

  1. University of Zürich, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, Blümlisalpstrasse 10, CH-8006 Zürich, Switzerland
   2. University of St Gallen, FEW-HSG, Varnbüelstrasse 14, CH-9000 St Gallen, Switzerland

Correspondence to: Ernst Fehr1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to E.F. (e-mail: Email: efehr@iew.unizh.ch).
Top of page

Human cooperation is an evolutionary puzzle. Unlike other creatures, people frequently cooperate with genetically unrelated strangers, often in large groups, with people they will never meet again, and when reputation gains are small or absent. These patterns of cooperation cannot be explained by the nepotistic motives associated with the evolutionary theory of kin selection and the selfish motives associated with signalling theory or the theory of reciprocal altruism.

Here we show experimentally that the altruistic punishment of defectors is a key motive for the explanation of cooperation.

(Defectors means people who ignore the morals of the group, say, those who openly steal or cheat.)

Altruistic punishment means that individuals punish, although the punishment is costly for them and yields no material gain. We show that cooperation flourishes if altruistic punishment is possible, and breaks down if it is ruled out.

The evidence indicates that negative emotions towards defectors are the proximate mechanism behind altruistic punishment. These results suggest that future study of the evolution of human cooperation should include a strong focus on explaining altruistic punishment.

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If Obama (Or Hillary) Loses In November... (poll)

I have been wondering for a while now, since we have never had both a black man and a woman running for President, why now? Why now and why is McCain putting up such a pathetic campaign in opposition?

Is it possible that the Republicans have been lying on the economy and that it actually is in worse shape than they are saying?

Almost certainly.

Is it possible that a Democratic President, if one of the two candidates wins in November, may inherit a HUGE mess from the GOP administration?

YES, obviously.

Is it possible that huge job losses will continue or even accelerate, or perhaps that we have not seen anything yet, that it will get much worse? That millions more Americans will lose their jobs and that they wont come back. That in four or eight years, a huge chunk of America will be unemployed and/or 'on the dole'? (if unemployment goes up above 15%, and stays there, we will need to institute a welfare state because large percentages of people will not have the chance of getting work for years at a time, if ever)

Yes. It is quite possible.

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The Punditocracy vs. The People on Healthcare: The Selling of a Disaster

Have you been dissatisfied with the media coverage of the huge differences between the healthcare plans of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? Do you feel as if you have been misled?

Imagine reading something like this a few months from now..

But what was missing from the coverage of Obama's bill was
solid analysis of how the bill would affect ordinary people
-- analysis the polls say the public wants. As of late
December CJR found no stories that explained how the plan
would affect those Americans who are not insured and who
still might not be if Obama's plan becomes law. There was
not even agreement among news stories on the number of
people the plan would leave without insurance. The Palm
BeachPost reported that Obama "predicted [his plan] would
provide insurance to nearly as many of the 37 million
uninsured Americans as Clinton's plan." (Clinton's plan
covers 100 percent of the uninsured.) The Washington Post
quoted Obama as saying his plan would cover "60 percent of
the uninsured" (leaving 40 percent uncovered), while the Los
Angeles Times noted that, "by Obama's own estimate, the
bill would not cover about one-fifth (or 20 percent) of
those currently lacking health insurance."

No one pinned Obama down on the numbers or interpreted them
through the pocketbooks of families who would be affected.
The bill calls for subsidies to help some families buy
insurance, but what would happen if a family was too rich
for the subsidies but too poor to buy coverage on its own?
How would the family get insurance? Plenty of stories,
however, quoted Obama's solution: "come back in a few years
and pass another law to help these people out".

Where were the stories that examined whether the Obama plan
would actually reduce costs of the health care system?
Health care purchasing Cooperatives are the main instrument
of cost containment, but in Obama's plan only employers
with fewer than 100 workers are required to obtain coverage
through them, if they want to continue deducting the cost of
health insurance for their workers. This arrangement would
leave all other employers free to operate outside the
mechanism for curtailing costs and to continue the status
quo, if they wished. The Congressional Budget Office found
that the earlier version of Obama's bill would actually
increase costs of the health care system, at least
initially, a point reported by The New York times and The
Washington Post in February 1993, but ignored in the latest
wave of Obama promotional pieces.

There were quick, passing references to various features in
the Obama bill, and a few papers did side-by-side
comparisons of the bill's main elements with those of other
plans. But what passed for "explanations" were so elliptical
that they further obscured the issues. Newsweek's pro-Obama
piece, for example, told readers: "Individuals could deduct
the entire cost of health insurance before paying taxes,"
and "Obama's plan would be more affordable to taxpayers
because it would not offer many of the bribes the Clinton
plan proposes to win over various interest groups." What
taxes? Which individuals? Under what circumstances would
they pay them? Just how would the plan be more affordable?
Would it lower tax rates? And what bribes did Newsweek mean
-- coverage for prescription drugs and some long-term care,
both of which are generally thought to be benefits the publc
wants? Newsweek didn't explain.

How the press covered the Obama bill perhaps best
illustrates why a Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard
University poll found that the public has more faith in the
American Association of Retired Persons, clearly not an
objective source, to tell them the best course for health
care reform than they do in the press. Twenty-nine percent
said they had a great deal more confidence in the AARP; only
7 percent said the same about TV and newspaper reporters.
Hardly a healthy state of affairs.

There's more...


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