Wednesday, May 09, 2007

It's Worth Your Time

Thursday, March 08, 2007


The disparity between CEO compensation and middle-class salaries is beginning to be noticed. During the last 15 years, CEO compensation has hit as much as 525 times the average American worker. Does a CEO put in 525 times the work of an auto worker? Or even 200 times? Is any CEO really worth that? I agree with the notion that this is a moral issue...and an obvious injustice.

Educate yourself here;

and here;

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

False Choices

Tonight, on CNN, Paula Zahn is airing a special report titled "Hip-Hop; Art or Poison"? I use this as but one example of a growing phenomenon in the mass media, and also in our civil (or uncivil) discourse. If you sensitize yourself to this dynamic, you'll start to see it more and more. We are being bombarded with a series of false choices; is hip-hop art or poison? well how about the possiblity that it's a little of both, or neither? Yet another example would be the way the Iraq war is presented to us; you're either a patriotic, unquestioning supporter of the President and his strategy, or you want all the troops out now and you don't support them and you're virtually a treasonous person.

As if there can't be a more nuanced position somewhere in between those two extremes.

Objective thought is dying. More and more people are turning to mass media for their opinions. Tell me what I should believe....I don't have time to figure it all out by listening to and rationally thinking about various voices and sources.

Tell me which side of the false choice I should be on.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Health Insurers Throw Cold Water On Entrepeneurs

This excellent editorial in today's Los Angeles Times highlights how healthcare insurers are stifling entrepeneurship and self-employment. It was written by Patt Morrison. Enjoy.

IT'S A GOOD thing I have health insurance, because I thought my ticker was going to give out when I read this: Health insurance companies will not sell policies, at any price, to hale and healthy people who have, or had, some pretty trifling ailments. Hemorrhoids. Varicose veins.

A woman who'd gone to a psychologist after breaking up with her honey was denied. So was a guy with jock itch, and a 40-year-old man with asthma.

Lisa Girion's front-page Times article the last day of 2006 leaped off the page and grabbed me by the throat, which is pretty much what health insurers are doing to millions of Americans — strangling them. If they don't work for a company with health benefits and they want individual health policies, they pay huge premiums for skimpy benefits, if they can get a policy at all. For health insurers, it's a seller's market, and they ain't selling.

Congress and the state Legislature settle down to business this week, and that business had better include some solution, finally, for the healthcare crisis. We aren't dumb enough today to fall for the boogeyman phrase "socialized medicine" that's been used to scare the public for decades. In the first Times article I found using that phrase, in June 1934, the American Medical Assn. told "advocates of socialized medicine" to keep their hands off the system. (At the same time, the AMA condemned free hospital care for veterans but refused to condemn free medical care for "Cabinet members, congressmen, senators, their families and their servants.")

Business, which has a firm grip on the legislative joystick, hits the panic button at talk of single-payer healthcare or universal healthcare, and it hauls out its own boogeyman phrases, such as "job-killer" and "drag on the economy."

I'll tell you what's a drag on the economy. Healthcare insurance that's impossibly expensive, or impossible to get. If the United States wants a vital economy of personal enterprise and risk-taking, then it needs to guarantee health coverage, period. Americans are willing to take chances in business and careers, but not with their families' health, or their own.

Dan Luke is an Oregon insurance broker. He told me that he runs into this "all the time — people staying in jobs they don't like. People have dreams about going into business for themselves that they can't fulfill because they don't want to lose medical coverage, and they can't pay a lot of money for [individual policies] even if they are healthy."

I gave him a professional for instance: Say there's a man who wants to switch careers, start something on his own. He's 59, married, four kids, comes to you for health insurance. He smokes cigars. ("Mmmmm," I heard Luke say.) And he had heart-valve surgery almost 10 years ago.

Luke stopped me right there. The man would never get coverage. I didn't even get to ask Luke about the risk factors of riding motorcycles and skiing.

My "for instance" is Arnold Schwarzenegger. If the governor weren't a rich man, if he were just a guy with a bold idea who wanted to give it a shot, as Schwarzenegger did when he abandoned acting for governing, he couldn't get health insurance. He'd be stuck in his old job instead of bringing something new to the economy and to his life.

A 2004 health industry survey Girion cited said 12% of applicants for individual policies were turned down. Luke believes it's closer to 40%. "I can't think of any other business," he said, "where people have money in their hand to buy a product, and you can't sell it to them."

Girion's story generated e-mail from people such as Shari, a consultant in Ventura County who couldn't get an individual policy. She's not taking meds, has no health problems, but she did have bunion surgery once. She can only guess that's the reason she couldn't get insurance because, like the FAA's "no-fly" list, the insurance companies told her no but refused to tell her why.

When Jennifer, in Santa Barbara, wanted to start her own bookkeeping business, she checked on whether she could get healthcare coverage. She has a tendency to get benign ovarian cysts, but that's her only health issue. She found out nobody would cover her — unless she'd have a hysterectomy. She stayed at her old job.

This year, the state will spend about $10 billion on healthcare for the 6 million or so uninsured Californians. And what's the worst-case state budget deficit predicted for the coming years? About $10 billion. Some coincidence. The uninsured are nobody's bargain. Businesses, individuals — we all pay, one way or another.

Schwarzenegger — on crutches because of his broken leg — gives his State of the State speech Tuesday. In October, at a meeting at The Times, I asked him what he'd do in a new term, and what he said then is what, it turns out, he'll be promoting next week: "Find a way of providing healthcare for the people of California." Now, with screws and cables holding his leg together, he can contemplate the pickle he'd be in if he were just Arnie S., a desk jockey dreaming of making something more of himself — and uninsurable at any price.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Insurance...For Who?

Which of A, B or C does not belong;

A) Cigna Corp. on Wednesday reported a 15% increase in third-quarter profit, buoyed by a strong showing in its health insurance business as membership rolls increased and the company better managed its medical costs.

In the quarter, net income rose to $298 million, or $2.75 a share, from $259 million, or $2, during the same period last year. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

B) ...For instance, the CEO of Philadelphia-based Cigna Corp., H. Edward Hanway ranked in the No. 3 spot even as stockholders of the health insurer saw their share prices decline 10 percent. Hanway netted $26.1 million in total compensation, most of which came from $22 million in long-term incentives. (Source: Philadelphia Business Journal)

C) Cigna has just informed us that they are revising all plans, groups, rates and enrollments effective January 1, 2007. The revisions and recalculations have resulted in enormous rate increases for some of our Cigna groups. California rate increases average 82%, with some increases as high as 250% (from a memo received from my plan administrator October 2006. For the record, my rates jump from $292/month to $700/month)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Save The Mailboxes

Whales are cool, but I say Save the Mailboxes!

Recently, in Lakewood, California, Postal officials began removing some of the familiar blue mailboxes. It's actually a national phenomenon; as more people look to the internet to stay in touch and pay bills, more and more of the mailboxes are disappearing.

Also, in a post-9/11 world, there is heightened concern that the mailboxes could be used for nefarious purposes. Hasn't happened so far.

I hope the Postal service can leave some of these boxes in place. They're more than just a hunk of steel and rivets. They're a gathering point, an opportunity to create community. When you walk to a mailbox, you just may encounter a neighbor. And you just may have an opportunity to interact, meet a need, give encouragement, or just plain chew the fat. Too many of these opportunities to create community, such as the sidewalk, are declining in numbers.

If you see these icons of community being taken out of your neighborhood, I encourage you to petition the Postal Service to have them replaced.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I love the perspective of this article from Bill Moyers.

Moyers Article