Archive for March, 2017

Are you a nice person?

March 31, 2017

You probably over-rate your “niceness” … but that’s OK.

=======

According to the UK Independent

You may consider yourself to be a nice person, but  a new study concludes that you’re probably not as nice as you think.

Psychologists at the University of London have discovered that 98 per cent of British people think they’re part of the nicest 50 per cent of the population.

Participants in the study were given a list of “nice” behaviors and asked which ones they do.

They claimed to do easy stuff like giving directions to lost souls, holding doors open or giving Granny their seat on the bus.

clip_image002

But, their niceness had limits …

The respondents stopped short of giving money to needy strangers (less than 1 in 5) or helping Granny cross the street (about 1 in 4).

Still, there’s some very good news …

 

(more…)

More Disney: How does Mickey fingerprint me?

March 30, 2017

The tech behind biometric fingerprints

========

In prior posts, I gushed over the technology applications at Disney World … and recounted the plausible explanations for why Mickey digitally records guests’ fingerprints when then enter the park.

Ostensibly, the purpose is fraud protection – keeping folks from passing along their partially used tickets for reuse.

Of course, there are other sorts of uses for digital fingerprints (e.g. catching bad guys) … and ways that the information can be misused.

clip_image002

========

With my curiosity aroused, I did some digging re: digital fingerprints.

(more…)

More Disney: Why is Mickey fingerprinting me?

March 29, 2017

A plausible “why” and a very interesting “how”.

========

In a prior post Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney? , I gushed over the technology applications at Disney World … the Magic Bands than let me into my hotel room & the park, Fast-Passed me to the front of lines, and “personalized” my family’s experience with real-time greetings and photos.

I noted that I was digitally fingerprinted when I entered the park and asked if anybody could tell me why.

clip_image002

A couple of loyal readers clued me and provoked some digging.

Here’s what I learned …

(more…)

America’s political polarization in 3 charts …

March 28, 2017

Interesting analysis from NBC’s Chuck Todd.

========

It’s no secret that American politics has become increasingly – and maybe, irreversibly – polarized.

As Meet the Press host Chuck Todd puts it:

Polarization is no longer just polluting the system — it’s paralyzing it.

The deepening divide between the right and the left has largely hollowed out the center of American politics.

Gone are the politicians who once occupied the large “middle” and the voters who once gravitated to them.

=========

The Pew Research Center has tracked party identity and ideology for decades.

One way they do it is by scoring the Republicans and Democrats on a 10-item scale of political values.

Here’s where we stand today:

clip_image002

=========

What the chart means …

Democrats cluster to the left, Republicans cluster to the right.

There is less than 10% in each party leaning ideologically to the left (or right) of the other party’s median.

That’s where we are today.

How did we get here?

(more…)

How much did ObamaCare increase premiums?

March 27, 2017

ObamaCare survived … so did the higher (and increasing) premiums we all pay.

========

Previously, we posted: Here’s the main reason why YOUR health insurance premiums have gone up.

We just ballparked the premium impact of “guaranteed issue” to folks with pre-existing conditions (about 27% increase in premiums attributable to guaranteed issue)

Below is a more complete analysis compiled The Daily Signal

Headline: “Obamacare Regulations Drove Up Premium Costs By Up to 68%.”

The biggest chunk is, in fact, attributable to guaranteed issue … which the DS pegged between 15% and 30%.

Our prior observation: almost everybody agrees that people with pre-existing conditions should be able to get coverage … but virtually no one realized that they were paying (much) higher premiums to provide that “social good” …  especially since they were told that their premiums would go down by $2,500.

See Remember how healthcare costs were going to drop by $2,500 for every family?

==========

A couple of other notable conclusions …

1) The EHBs – the controversial “Essential Health Benefits” mandated into all policies – increased premiums by about 8%.

2) “Community Rating” – which equalized premiums for men & women and contained old folks’ premiums – really increased premiums for the under 35 crowd by 19% to 30.

No wonder the young healthies were reluctant to sign up.

 

image

==========

#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

=========

Hack alert: Don’t be so quick to “unsubscribe” …

March 24, 2017

The obvious became evident to me …

==========

Everybody gets more email solicitations than they want, right?

So, how to stop them?

Easy answer: click the Federally required “unsubscribe” link.

clip_image001

Err, not so fast … might cause a problem bigger than an overflowing email box …

How so?

(more…)

“The under-26 provision is one of Obamacare’s biggest flaws”

March 23, 2017

Senator: “We didn’t think ahead” … and consider ramifications.

=======

From the get-go, I’ve questioned the “wildly popular” ObamaCare provision allowing “adult children” to say on their parents’ health insurance policies until they’re 26.

My objection was two-fold.

First, it removes a significant source of motivation for adult-children to get a job.

In the old days, parents encouraged their college kids to get a degree that might just qualify them for a paying job.

Unfocused, impractical exploration wasn’t a viable option for most families.

And, in the old days, parents used to nudge their kids to land jobs with benefits (not the same as “friends with benefits”) that included “hospitalization” … the old school name for health insurance.

I guess those days are gone …

clip_image002

========

Second, as we’ve posted before, due to the weird insurance pricing schemes that let all except a family’s 1st child ride free on their parents plans, an adult-child rides completely free unless he-she is the family’s only covered child.

That means that all other plan members who pay premiums end up paying higher premiums to cover the cost of the free-riding adult-children

I don’t like these kinds of hidden cross-subsidies.

On this point, an insurance buddy of mine advised me to settle down since these adult-children are generally healthy and don’t consume much medical care.

True, but that raises an even biggest issue …

(more…)

Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney?

March 22, 2017

Disney’s technology applications are impressive.

===========

I know because I’m Just back from fact-finding trip (aka. family vacation) at Disney World.

Here’s some of what I found.

===========

No surprise, there was a huge rush of “guests” entering the Magic Kingdom when the gates opened at 8 a.m.

The crowd measured into the thousands … all needing to be security-screened.

All bags and strollers had to be hand-checked … all kids – big & little – had to be ushered through metal detectors.

Nightmare, right?

Maybe at the airport, but not at Disney.

Our wait & processing time: less than 10 minutes.

clip_image002

Then came the good part…

(more…)

If you’re one of the 155 million people on employee-based health insurance plans …

March 21, 2017

Here’s the main reason why YOUR health insurance premiums have gone up.

=======

All the repeal & replace attention seems to be on the 20 million people who are getting insurance via Extended Medicaid or ObamaCare Exchanges.

Virtually no light is being shined on the vast majority of folks who are covered by employer plans.

Case-in-point: the soaring premiums being paid by employees … hardly the $2,500 reduction that was promised.

Here’s one of the reasons that premiums have gone up not down …

========

Most people – probably bordering on all – would agree that people with pre-existing conditions should be able to get health insurance.

I accept that as a non-debatable point.

But, I got curious about the economics of so-called “guaranteed coverage”… i.e. how much does it cost, and who pays for it?

Specifically, for folks covered by employer plans, how much of their increase in health insurance premiums over the past couple of years is attributable to guaranteed coverage?

image

Let’s take a whack at the numbers …

(more…)

There are 5 clues of “authentic” intelligence …

March 20, 2017

For openers, high IQ and bilingual aren’t on the list.

========

Interesting piece that I spotted on the DailyMail

========

Everybody tries to act smart, right?

You know … long words, dramatic pauses, furled brows, grasped chins.

clip_image001

=======

Psyche researchers dismiss most of these antics as shallow fakery and have identified 5 behavioral traits that authentically mark true intelligence.

Test yourself ….and start using the markers to smoke out faux-smarties.

(more…)

Wonder why it’s so hard to untangle ObamaCare?

March 17, 2017

Here’s a (scary) chart that puts the program in context.

=======

Seriously, here’s a graphic of the ObamaCare organization structure and processes …

image

Here’s a link to enlarged version and another to a summary that decodes the chart and lists some of the bill’s key provisions.

=====

Take a quick glance at the flowchart and ask yourself: ”Think this will work?”

The bill’s laundry list special interest provisions caught my eye…

(more…)

About the “Extended Medicaid” bruhaha …

March 16, 2017

It’s center stage in the current debate.

=========

So, I dug in a bit to understand the issue.

image

 

Here are my takeaways ….

(more…)

Another hidden cost of ObamaCare …

March 15, 2017

For most doctors, Medicaid patients are a losing proposition.

========

It’s hard to find anybody opposed to healthcare for the poor.

In the past, most doctors took on Medicaid patients –- which were relatively few in number — as a public service.

Some took Medicaid patients to fill empty appointment slots and, thus, increase capacity utilization (think, airlines filling empty seats).

But, an increasing number of doctors are demotivated to serve Medicaid patients.

clip_image002

=======

What’s the problem?

(more…)

A hidden cost of ObamaCare: Docs getting stiffed.

March 14, 2017

ObamaCare’s high deductible plans pushing up bad debts.

========

Chatting with a doctor-friend recently.

His is a very specialized 1-doctor practice (supported by a handful of well-trained techs).

Patients who are referred to him usually have a very serious condition needing sophisticated diagnostics.

My friend casually mentioned to me that – in the past couple of years — he has had to write-off more than $2 million in bad debts.

Way more than in prior years.

image

======

Here’s what’s going on …

(more…)

Trip Notes: Seniors’ Week in Cabo …

March 13, 2017

Let’s get personal today…

We just got back from a rare out-of-country trip …

Friends and students oft-hear from me that I hate to travel.

I usually put it: “After 2 tours-of-duty as a consultant, I’ve had my fill of French restaurants and airports”.

That said, some friends nudged me to take a trip to Cabo.

image

Even though it was my spring break, it didn’t dawn on me that it was every college’s spring break.

The obvious become evident to me when I realized that my wife & I brought our flight’s average age up by about a year or two (think about the math of that calculation for for a second).

A college girl boarded with an appropriate t-shirt: “The few.  The proud. The privileged” … ah, to be an American college kid again.

========

For the record, here are a couple of takeaways from my trip…

(more…)

Remember how ObamaCare was going to divert patients from ERs to doctors’ offices?

March 10, 2017

Turns out that the number of people flocking to ERs is increasing, not decreasing.

=======

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal:

One of ObamaCare’s goals was to reduce pressure on emergency rooms by expanding Medicaid and giving poor people better access to primary care.

Instead, many hospitals across the nation are seeing a surge of those newly insured Medicaid patients walking into emergency rooms.

Nationally, nearly half of ER doctors responding to a recent poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians said they’ve seen more visits since ObamaCare was enacted.

That’s a problem since an average ER visit costs $580 more than a trip to the doctor’s office.

image

 

Why’s this happening?

(more…)

Don’t faint: I agree with ObamaCare on this one …

March 9, 2017

For the record, I think that ObamaCare is an expensive, amateurish travesty that should be repealed and rebuilt from the ground up by professionals.  Keep the high risk pools for pre-exiting conditions, keep the subsidies for the poor … but lose the  micro-narrow provider networks and the junk mandated into policies (e.g. my favorite: universally free birth control for law schoolers).

And, I think that Dr. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel – Rahm’s brother and one of the ObamaCare architects – is a complete butt.

image

That said, I was on Zeke’s side when he sparred with O’Reilly  …

(more…)

Obamacare For me, it’s personal…

March 8, 2017

Higher costs, higher taxes, longer waits, primary doc absentia, still working

========

My primary care doctor is on the faculty at Georgetown’s med school … and on the staff at Georgetown Hospital

Shortly after ObamaCare was passed, I asked him what he thought the implications would be.

clip_image001

His reply surprised me …

“Not much change … it will just shift around who’s going to be paying the bills…. now, the hospital would treat anybody and just write off unpaid bills … going forward, I guess, those bills will be paid by the government and insurance companies.”

When pressed, about service levels, he opined:

“I’m working full days now, seeing as many patients as I can … so, it’ll be harder for current patients to get appointments unless we hire more doctors or stop accepting new patients … and, I don’t see us doing either of those two things.”

At the time, I thought his assessment was a bit dismissive.

Looking back, he had had deftly cut to chase.

In the final analysis healthcare – and, hence – ObamaCare impacts are strictly personal.

Here’s my saga. It’s one that many of my friends can relate to.

(more…)

Remember when an ObamaCare architect called you stupid?

March 7, 2017

Let’s flashback to a November 2014 post ….

======

Even if you believe that “the end justifies the means”, this has gotta make your skin crawl.

Some background: Prof. Jonathan Gruber is an MIT economist who helped on RomneyCare in Massachusetts and was one of the primary architects of ObamaCare.

He was caught on video  speaking quite frankly about the crafting of ObamaCare.

His basic message:

“The bill was written in a tortured way … to be sure that the CBO didn’t score the mandate as a tax …  otherwise the bill would die … so, it was written to do that.

With regards to the subsides … if people figured out that healthy pay in to give sick people money, it wouldn’t have passed … lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.

Basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or what … that was critical to getting the bill to pass … yeah, it would be better to be transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

Watch the video … it’s even more chilling to hear Prof. Gruber say the words: Obfuscate and bank on American stupidity.

How do these guys sleep at night?

 

 

P.S. Another Gruber video got some wide play..

He’s on tape saying that the specific language in the bill that only provided subsidies for folks going through state exchanges was intentional to motivate states to build exchanges,

ObamaCare supporters started claiming that  it was just a typo that didn’t represent intent.

The Supreme Court agreed with them … with life & death consequence for ObamaCare.

As Forrest Gump would say:” Stupid is as stupid does.”

=====

#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

Remember how healthcare costs were going to drop by $2,500 for every family?

March 7, 2017

In 2016, employees paid $11,000 out-of-pocket … up $2,500 since 2012.

========

Milliman – a well-regarded actuarial consulting” firm – has published an annual recap of healthcare spending since 2001.

The Milliman Medical Index tracks the total costs of providing health care to an average family of four covered by an employer-sponsored “preferred provider plan” … that’s about 155 million employees and their dependents.

The total includes the health insurance premiums paid by both the employer and the employee, as well as the actual expenditures for health care paid by the insurance plan and out of pocket by the insured family.

The big news: In 2016, the average healthcare costs for a family of 4 surpassed $25,000 for the first time … the $25,826 is triple the cost to provide health care for the same family in 2001 … and up about $5,000 since 2012.

clip_image002

======

The bad(est) news is the increased proportion of the healthcare costs being shouldered by individual employees …

(more…)

Gains, losses, the endowment effect … and ObamaCare

March 3, 2017

Here’s why repeal & replace is so challenging …

======

Behavioral theorists have long observed that most people are risk adverse and, due in part to an “endowment effect”, they “value” losses greater than gains.

Endowment Effect: People tend to ascribe a higher value to things that they already own than to comparable things that they don’t own. For example, a car-seller might think his sleek machine is “worth” $10,000 even though credible appraisers say it’s worth $7,500. Sometimes the difference is due to information asymmetry (e.g. the owner knows more about the car’s fine points), but usually it’s just a cognitive bias – the Endowment Effect.

The chart below illustrates the gains & losses concept.

  • Note that the “value line” is steeper on the losses side of the chart than on the gains side.
  • L & G are equivalently sized changes from a current position.
  • The gain (G) generates an increase in value equal to X.
  • The loss (L) generates a decrease in value that is generally found to be 2 to 3 times an equivalently sized gain

clip_image001

=====

For example, would you take any of these coin flip gambles?

  1. Heads: win $100; Tails: lose $100
  2. Heads: win $150; Tails: lose $100
  3. Heads: win $200; Tails: lose $100
  4. Heads: win $300; Tails: lose $100

Most people pass on #1 and #2, but would hop on #3 and #4.

OK, now let’s show how all of this relates to ObamaCare.

(more…)

Should lawmakers (and regulators) have to eat their own cooking?

March 2, 2017

Might induce some genuine empathy and motivate some constructive action.

=========

According to The Atlantic …

As a presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter criticized “exclusive private schools that allow the children of the political and economic elite to avoid public schools that are considered dangerous or inferior.”

When he assumed office in 1977, he did something remarkable:

He enrolled his 9-year-old daughter, Amy, in a predominantly black Washington, D.C., public school.

Amy became the first child of a sitting U.S. president to attend a public school since 1906.

She still is.

Gotta give the man credit for walking the talk.

Former President Obama?

Not so much …

image

A Dept. of Education study found that students in the nation’s capital that were provided with vouchers allowing them to attend private school made “statistically significant gains in achievement.”

Despite that finding, then President Obama curtailed the program … and turned around and enrolled his daughters in Sidwell Friends – the swank private school of choice for the DC elite.

So, it wasn’t at all surprising that several sources found that many of the Democratic Senators who voted against school voucher advocate Betsy DeVos –- opt out of the public school system and send their off-spring to private schools.

OK, maybe they really thought that DeVos wasn’t as qualified as Obama’s basketball buddy, Arne Duncan, who presided for 7 years over declining test scores and “failing schools” headlines.

Or, maybe their pro-choice inclinations don’t really extend beyond their family & friends when it comes to education.

As the USN&WR opined:

Education politics are big business in America, often pitting institutionalized interests like the NEA against parents and kids.

And, equally unfortunately, there are far too many people who are in a position to right the wrongs who are taking advantage of their ability to opt out of the discussion, at least as far as their own children are concerned.

Where education is concerned there’s one America for the elites, like members of Congress and the President, who send their children to private schools.

And, there’s one for everyone else, the regular people who are seeing the educational dreams they have for their children shattered on the altar of politics.

========

So, what’s the answer?

(more…)

The agony and the ecstasy …

March 1, 2017

Sometimes, pictures are worth a thousand words.

=======

Snaps from Trump’s speech to Congress …

image

=======

The day after market reaction: pure ecstasy …

dow-3-1-17b
========

#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

=======

President Trump arrives in Washington …

March 1, 2017

Press scrambling to find negative angles.

=======

Let’s cut to the chase …

This is all that people will remember about President Trump’s speech last night.

clip_image001

========

Even Van Jones – former Obama Czar of Something and now a far-left CNN commentator – conceded:

clip_image003

Here’s the essence of Jones’s musings as reported in the Washington Post …:

That was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period. And he did something extraordinary.

And for people who have been hoping that he would become unifying, hoping that he might find some way to become presidential, they should be happy with that moment.

For people who have been hoping that maybe he would remain a divisive cartoon, which he often finds a way to do, they should begin to become a little bit worried tonight, because that thing you just saw him do, if he finds a way to do that over and over again, he’s going to be there for eight years.

He did something tonight that you cannot take away from him.

He became president of the United States.

With that as a starting point, the media has a challenge on its hands … how to do some reverse alchemy and turn the gold back into straw?

(more…)