Monday, April 28, 2008

American Competitiveness and Health Insurance

Is America getting less competitive because its citizens lack health insurance?

Entrepreneurs have made America great. They have embraced and monetized new ideas and created world beating companies. However, how many of these entrepreneurs have been held back because they become too scared to take a risk? A risk of going out on one's own without the safety net of a health insurance?

It is one thing for a brilliant 18 year old in great health to start a fantastic company. What about the bright 40 year old with two kids who has plodded through his job and obtained a knowledge he feels he can profit from. A realistic assessment would show a probability of failure, but that is not what stops him. What does stop him is the possibility that until his idea makes it, he will be placing his family at risk by forsaking medical insurance.

How many such entrepreneurs exist in this country and is there any hope for them?

One might argue that entrepreneurism without risk is an oxymoron. But if a sense of responsibility prevails that prevents a would be entrepreneur from following her dream because it may put her family at risk by striking out on her own, the country as a whole has lost.

Universal Health Coverage

I was thinking about the national health insurance crisis and the more I thought, the more questions I had. So rather than pontificating an answer, I just posted the questions.

60% of our population has medical insurance and are reasonably satisfied with it.

But upto 40% don't and this is an unacceptably high number.

What do we do to ensure everyone has coverage?

1) do we go wholesale into an universal government controlled program and its attendant ineffeciencies?

2) do we leave the 60% alone but provide some sort of government program for the 40%? If so, who will pay for it? Would it be a tax that even the 60% who have private insurance will need to pay? Can we consider this as one of the sacrifices we make as a nation for the common good?

3)If we adopt this idea of private insurance with a government safety net, what will prevent private insurance from promptly dumping all their unprofitable patients? Also, why would employers bear the expense of offering private health insurance if the government is doing so?

4)Can a public/private partnership work or should it only be one way or the other?

5)Should the private insurance industry be made non-profit? Would this be anyway better than government?

6) Can we reform laws to prevent denial of coverage or increase in premium for pre-existing conditions? Isn't it a travesty that you can be denied coverage because you have a disease or be charged outrageous premiums?

7) How do we ensure -in a private scenario - that health benefits are protected at low rates in the event of a loss of job or serious illness that necessitates stoppage of work?

8) Or do we just accept that you only have as much right to life and good health as you have money in your wallet? Is this an acceptable premise to our society and its values?

9) Do we accept that some aspects of the medical insurance business will be necesarily unprofitable - if they do accept everyone with lower premiums - and can we realistically expect a for profit company to allow certain segments of its business to be always unprofitable?

10)Can we put a cap on how much a family can spend on health insurance based on tax returns and the overage be picked up by the government? In effect, this means a catastropic coverage that is guaranteed by the government and would result in people getting the care they need.

11) Can we NOT replicate the British model of National Health Trusts? Keep the hospitals and the doctors who work in them in the private sector but have some sort of federal tax based guarantee on the bill payment.

12) How do we make medicines and lab tests more affordable?

13) What about the financial markets? What about all the traded stocks in health insurers, hospitals and labs? Can we afford to take this whole sector off the market?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

America's obsession with.....JUNK!

Why is America obsessed with junk? How much of our staggering trade deficit is spent importing crap? One man's treasure is another man's junk you say? But come on, surely we can do without all the cheap, flimsy, meant to be trashed craplets that are stocked in the impulse buy counters near the cash registers of most stores!

We start of the new year with maybe a party and buy some party favors. Then comes Valentine's day when many of us buy some dreadful stuffed animal toy or some such unmentionable. Father's day, mother's day, boss's day secretary's day follows in progression and we reward the unfortunate recepient with a cheap guaranteed to fall apart gift. This may not be the main gift, but we have a tendency to add a stocking stuffer to give the impression of plenty.

One gift is no longer enough. The main gift is accompanied with...junk. Either a stuffed animal or a small case of dreadful chocolate or a plastic trinket whose sole purpose is to be thrown away. Why do we spend so much of our income on nonsense like this?

These days I am noticing that even junk has stopped pretending to be anything but junk. Not too long ago, when the dollar was a little stronger, a lot of the craplets were a little better made. The stuffed toy didn't start molting as you picked it off the shelf. It wasn't stuffed with wadded newspaper.

Surely we can do without?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Do you think in Google Query?

The other day in the shower (where admittedly some of us get our most creative thoughts), I was thinking about why my old Jeep suddenly stalls on left turns. Unconsciously, I started formulating queries I could pose to Google:
Jeep stall left turn
1997 Cherokee engine cut off
Jeep issues
Jeep turning problems

It suddenly struck me that I am doing this more frequently these days. I have started to think in Google Query. Any time I need a question answered, I invariably try to formulate a query that I think will get me the results I need. Even when I am away from my computer, rather than think of a solution, I start thinking of ways to express the problem to the Google search engine.

I am sure, I am not alone in this. In a way, the Internet is making us lazier. I find myself trying to find the answer to a question by typing it into Google rather than figuring out the answer myself. If someone already has found the answer, why re-invent the wheel? I wonder if this is a sign of intellectual laziness or just a matter of using the tools at our disposal?