Friday, November 01, 2013

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) We’ll get through this, despite the hiccups, we will have universal health insurance.

2) I have a suggestion for the NYPD: stop-and-frisk more white kids, if you’re determined to keep the program. There are many more white kids committing crimes than there are black kids, and who knows? Maybe you’ll be allowed to keep it despite its noxious First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment tramplings?

3) In case you were wondering why shit has gotten so strange lately, the Milky Way huffs fumes.

4) It’s been more than thirty years since AIDS and HIV popped up on the global health radar. We may finally have at least one cracked.

5) Banksy! Come back! Come back, Banksy!

6) Today, Americans officially begin to starve.

7) He plays for the Dallas Stars, keep in mind.


9) Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble…

10) Finally, someone investigates the phenomenon that is Florida.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

If You Lost Your Health Insurance Because of "Obamacare"...

Blame your insurer for selling you crappy insurance:

The controversy mainly surrounds the minority of Americans who shop individually for insurance – not for people insured through an employer-based plan or a government program such as Medicare.

The White House has said that, technically, the law allows insurance plans that individuals had in 2009 to be grandfathered in under the law, whether or not their coverage meets ACA conditions.

In practice, though, it’s common for insurance companies to change their policies frequently. Once they change, the policies need to comply with ACA standards of acceptable coverage.

So, as Obama argued, many Americans will now be offered stronger insurance coverage. And in a shift from prior law, a policy can’t be denied or jacked up in price based on an individual’s health.

“Junk insurance,” Like this idiot:

On CBS This Morning, Crawford reported that 56-year-old Dianne Barrette received a letter last month “from Blue Cross Blue Shield, informing her that as of January 2014, she would lose her current plan. She pays $54 a month. The new plan she’s being offered would run $591 a month, ten times more than what she currently pays.”

[…]First of all, the plan that Barrette paid $54 a month for is barely health insurance at all. It’s part of a subset of insurance that Consumer Reports calls “junk health insurance” (and which even the company that sells it recommends that customers not rely solely upon) and it pays only $50 towards most of the services it covers. That’s it. If Dianne went to the doctor every week for a year, her plan would pay, at most, $2600. Meanwhile, based on average office visit charges, Diane would pay about $5,600.00. She probably doesn’t go to the doctor every week, of course, which means her plan pays a lot less, while her premium buys her a lot less. If she goes to the doctor, say, six times in a year, she’s paid a $648 premium for the privilege of spending another $600 on office visits. The plan also pays up to $15 per prescription, which will get you a few milligrams of most prescription drugs. The one decent deal on her plan is that it covers 100% of in-network lab services.

But many people just want the peace of mind to know that if something really bad happens, they won’t have to worry about being billed into the poorhouse. What if the worst happens, and Dianne needs to be hospitalized due to sudden illness or injury? Well, unless Dianne is suffering complications due to pregnancy, her plan covers nothing. If she’s having complications from pregnancy, it covers fifty bucks. It’s entirely possible that now-healthy Dianne is “happy” with this plan, but the whole idea behind the Affordable Care Act is that the rest of us are not happy having to pick up the tab if Dianne gets a disease, has an accident, or otherwise needs to go to the hospital. Frankly, though, Dianne would be better off saving that $648 and negotiating her office visits on her own.

Ironically, it took FOX News(!) to get the other side of the story out:

Greta [van Susteren] teed up the interview using the same setup as Crawford’s piece, that Barrette is “finding out she will have to pay 10 times as much for health insurance” because “she is losing her current plan to Obamacare.”

“I have a copy of your Florida Blue insurance and it’s about $54 a month,” Greta continued, “and now I understand that under Obamacare, it’s going to go up, at least they said that the policy they would offer you under Florida Blue, would be $591; is that correct?”

Actually, the plan BCBSFL was only one of many plans Dianne has to choose from, 10 of which are cheaper than that $591, and based on her income, she’d only pay around $209 a month, but Greta did cut right to the chase about the quality of her old plan.

“Your $54 a month policy is a pretty, you know, bare bones policy, “Greta said. “Why do you want to keep that one, except for the price? Maybe you can get something better with a subsidy?”

“Well, I know it doesn’t cover lengthy hospital stays,” Barrette replied, adding “It’s perfect for what I want. I get co-pays for doctor visits and prescriptions. So it suffices what I need. Also, the price isn’t too bad either.”

Her $54 plan actually doesn’t have copays for doctor visits and prescriptions. It pays $50 toward covered doctor’s visits, Dianne pays the rest, and $15 toward prescriptions, Dianne pays the rest. As for hospitalization, Greta again went where CBS did not, and actually asked about it.

“Well, does it pay for any hospitalization, the current policy you have?” Greta asked.

“Again, I’m a little confused about it,” Barrette answered. “I have been reading over and over the policies, and it appears that it does cover some outpatient, but when you go through the booklet they sent, it would say refer to this, refer to it but then refer back to… it was very confusing.”

Keep all this in mind when your idiot conservative friends start getting all “But he promissssssssssssssssssed!” about Obamacare. Yes, you can keep your plan if you’re happy with it AND if it meets the criteria established for minimum healthcare coverage under the ACA. But if it doesn’t, the insurance company has to kick you off, just like a bar has to kick you out if its closing time. There’s a law, you see…

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Official End to Ted Cruz's Presidential Aspirations

Beating up on Trayvon Martin’s mom:

During a Senate hearing on "stand your ground" laws and public safety, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tried to dismiss claims that such laws had racial implications. Because many black people are victims of violent crime and need to defend themselves, Cruz said, "the notion that 'stand your ground' laws are some form of veiled racism may be a convenient political attack, but it is not borne out by the fact remotely." The chair of the subcommittee, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, offered a quick and biting rebuttal. Sitting in front of the two was Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother.

The hearing stemmed from the 2012 shooting of Martin, the Florida teenager shot to death while walking back from the convenience store after being confronted by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. That case prompted new consideration of the type of self-defense law that, at first, allowed Zimmerman to go free without criminal charges.

[…]Speaking directly to Martin's mother, Cruz suggested that the family was "simply the mourning the loss of your son," while "other players" sought "to do a great deal more based on what happened that Florida night." But Sybrina Fulton was not there simply to mourn the loss of her son.

Durbin’s rebuttal?

Let me be very specific when I say this. Don't take my word for it. Take the testimony of Hillary Shelton, director of the NAACP, Washington Bureau, in which he states — and it's part of this record — "Few issues have caused as much angst and raised as many deeply held concerns among our members and the communities we serve as 'stand your ground' laws. These laws and their applications have sadly resulted in no less than the murder of people who were doing nothing more than walking down the street."

Sybrina’s Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, was even more pointed:

"I just wanted to come here to...let you know how important it is that we amend this 'stand your ground' because it certainly did not work in my case," Fulton said, speaking without consulting prepared remarks. "The person that shot and killed my son is walking the streets today. This law does not work."

Go back to Canadistan where you came from, Ted.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Not Wrong, But Not Right

Atmospheric scientists have a really tough job: predicting weather. This year, 2013, has seen a hurricane season that lived up to predictions, and yet, did not:

In August of 2011, Tropical Storm Irene became the worst storm to hit New York since 1972. A year later, Hurricane Sandy made Irene look like a drizzle, and Governor Andrew Cuomo referred to the danger posed by the massive storms as the "new normal." So it was hardly comforting for New York, still largely unprepared for another Sandy, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted in May that there was a 70 percent chance this year's hurricane season would be more active than normal, with three to six major (category three or higher) storms.

Then ... nothing happened. With the season winding down, there have been twelve named storms, two hurricanes, and not a single major hurricane to date. On the surface, it seems kind of embarrassing. But one of the lead scientists behind the NOAA forecast says that it is just proof that you shouldn't pay attention to hurricane projections anyway.

[…]Consequently, while the number of storms predicted was on target, "They just didn’t find an environment that was conducive to go on and become strong," Franklin says. "So we had lots of weak systems that didn't last very long."

What may have happened, scientists speculate, is a phenomenon called “sinking air”.

When air rises, it carries moisture from the surface, especially the ocean, to upper levels of the atmosphere. This creates instability and instability breeds thunderstorms and thunderstorms seed hurricanes.

When the opposite happens, when air sinks, it brings drier air down, and basically soaks up any thunderstorms. They’ll still form but they get short-circuited.

This is important because of the human propensity to a short attention span.

It’s one year since Superstorm Sandy hit New York City, and we’re still digging out. We can take preventative steps, but there’s nothing like being prepared.

Monday, October 28, 2013

If This Doesn't Persuade You We Need Immigration Reform STAT, Nothing Will

We hear an awful lot – too much, in my book – about the shiftless, lazy welfare-grubbing, taxpayer mooching undocumented workers flooding our nation, and overwhelming our social services.

And then there’s this guy, who I believe is far more representative of the average immigrant who comes to this nation:

They are busboys, dishwashers, construction workers. They are on their feet at enervating jobs all day and often all night. Many do not have health insurance. Most find it difficult to afford the increasingly hefty fees New York Road Runners charges for its races, especially the marathon, which now costs at least $227.

For [Julio] Sauce, that is half a week’s paycheck. 

Sauce finishes first in his age group, 40-49, regularly, despite working ten hours a day as a cook. Recently, he worked from 2:30PM to 12:30AM on a Saturday evening, and grabbed three hours’s sleep before winning a half-marathon in Central Park, a good hour’s ride from his home on Coney Island. Chew on that for a bit: he works 60 and 70 hour weeks (we presume he’s not bound by union regulations) and still manages to find time to train to win races in one of the most athletic and competitive cities on the planet.

I ride my bike a lot in the wee hours of the morning (not as wee now as just a few weeks ago, admittedly). The neighborhoods I most worry about riding through?

Not the wealthy or upper-middle class neighborhoods. Those folks are soundly asleep and I’m white, so the private security guards wave and smile and go back to napping.

No, it’s the immigrant neighborhoods: the Asians, the Latinos, the Caribbean folk. Those neighborhoods are bustling with folks rushing to work, even on Sundays. The buses run frequently, livery cabs zip in and away from the curbs, men and women with backpacks and earphones jaywalk to the subway station across the street. I have to be vigilant, especially in the dark.

Folks work hard. Folks get hurt and sometimes they have to go to the ER, and even Ronald Reagan felt it was necessary for any ER to treat any patient, no matter what the cost and no matter whether they could afford it or not.

Of course, Reagan also inaugurated the whole “welfare queen” lie, by making up an anecdote.

We can all come up with anecdotes about lazy shiftless immigrants. It’s called “stereotyping” or worse. Facts, fortunately, have a liberal bias.