Archive for March, 2010

Armageddon…already?!

The cornerstone of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign seemed to be his Health Care Reform. This bill entails the following:

I have Health Insurance –

  • You can keep your existing insurance and doctor if you want
  • Insurance companies will not be allowed to deny coverage due to a pre-existing condition (not for another 4 years)
  • Insurance companies will not be allowed to drop you when you get sick
  • There will no longer be a cap on the amount of coverage you can receive (yearly/lifetime)
  • There will be a limit for “out-of-pocket” expenses
  • Insurance companies will be required to cover check-ups and preventive care (mammograms, etc.)

It looks like he’s a bit peeved at the Insurance Industry – rent out or download The Rainmaker or even get a copy of the book by John Grisham. He tackles the problem of the Insurance Industry and reveals them for being fraudulent and downright evil! The movie has Matt Damon, Danny DeVito and Mickey Rourke. One interesting part in the movie comes when the court learns that this particular insurance company rejects ALL claims for a year!

I don’t have Health Insurance

  • If you change or lose your job or start your own business, you will be covered
  • An Insurance Exchange or Marketplace will come into effect enabling people to “shop” for insurance at competitive prices
  • Tax credits will be provided for small businesses and individuals
  • Low-cost coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions (Senator John McCain’s idea)
  • Insurance companies kept honest by making a not-for-profit public health insurance option

For everyone:

  • “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future”
  • Plan can be paid for by finding savings within the health care system
  • Independent medical experts employed to identify fraud, waste and abuse
  • Medical malpractice reform project

It sounds like a good plan – here in Ireland we have a system that aids but also hinders. If you are within a certain wage bracket, have a disability or are elderly you are eligible for a Medical Card provided by the Health Service Executive. This card entitles you to free health care regardless of your situation within public services. Unfortunately a lot of people lie on their forms and it’s possible to see someone driving around in a new Range Rover with a medical card! The other alternative is obtaining health insurance from a range of different companies, unfortunately the majority of people who cannot afford the coverage simply go without. A doctor’s visit ranges between 30 and 50 Euro depending on where you go. Any other tests are extra. If you need prescription drugs and you don’t have a medical card, be prepared to pay for it. About a year ago I suffered from a peptic ulcer and I was informed by my doctor (after paying €40) that I need a few tablets – when we got to the Pharmacy we were forced to shell out nigh on €100 for the 6 pills! The problem in this country is that the Pharmacy’s are allowed to get away with theft and charge what seems to agree with them any given day. Over the border in Northern Ireland (part of the UK), there is a flat rate for prescription drugs – roughly £6. It’s about time something happened over in the States.

Of course not everyone likes Obama’s plan. Those who are against the Health Reform are not letting their feelings subside, recently House Minority Leader John Boehner said that the next 24 hours are “armageddon” because the health care bill proposed by Democrats will “ruin our country,” – speaking the day before the bill was voted on. I always thought that Armageddon would spell the end of the world, not pave the way for millions of less-fortunate people to obtain medical care – maybe I’m wrong. On the other side of the coin most of these politicians have their campaigns funded by…Insurance companies – maybe not directly but if the money is traced, it will undoubtedly find its way back to the board rooms of these insurers.

Naturally Obama’s plan is stacked against the odds. In a country with the most expensive health-care system globally, it’s obvious that millions of people cannot afford to see a doctor, let alone have necessary surgery. In the US, on OECD estimates, healthcare expenditure is close to 17% of the GDP. Why is this figure so high?

  • Have you seen Supersize Me? There are high rates of preventable disease among Americans and their supposed love affair with junk food
  • Huge cost of privatised care
  • Health insurance companies run for profit grossly inflate the cost of medical care
  • A study by academics from the Harvard Medical School and the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that almost one third of healthcare spending – 31 per cent – is gobbled up by their administrative overheads and profits.

Obama aims to create millions of new customers for the insurers by subsidising Americans on low and middle incomes to take out policies. But are there loopholes? Already I can see one – US reforms will ban insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions…but not for another four years. No doubt insurance companies will fight tooth and nail (in 4 years time) to argue that your claim is void because your pre-exiting condition was flagged on their books before the Health Reform came into effect. Take this estimate for example: $350 billion was spent by insurance companies on finding ways to avoid coverage and deny claims – a sum equal to just under 2 per cent of US GDP. Needless to say insurance companies will hike their rates as they seek to rake back the cost of compulsory insurance of the sick by hitting the healthy.

Obama reckons that since you won’t pay any extra “dime[s]” everything will work out. But how can it? The government will have to pick up the tab and how does this help the fiscal burden of the country? Or will there be an extra tax thrown in somewhere – it could  come under the guise of taxing the most expensive insurance policies (Cadillac Plan). Obama states that there is millions of dollars lost in waste and fraud within the system and that unwarranted subsidies in Medicare goes to insurance companies – is he attacking the greed of the insurance companies? the greed of corporate America?

His Health Reform is designed to move more people into private health insurance. But the centrality of private health insurers is part of the problem in the US, not the answer. Is he leading the lambs from, or to the slaughter?

PC Irony

There’s a little bit of irony in this comic strip from NC Winters


Code of Ethics for Patients

1. Do not expect your doctor to share your discomfort. Involvement with the patient’s suffering might cause him to lose valuable scientific objectivity.

2. Be cheerful at all times. Your doctor leads a busy and trying life and requires all the gentleness and reassurance he can get.

3.Try to suffer from the disease for which you are being treated. Remember that your doctor has a professional reputation to uphold.

4.Do not complain if the treatment fails to bring relief. You must believe that your doctor has achieved a deep insight into the true nature of your illness, which transcends any mere permanent disability you may have experienced.

5. Never ask your doctor to explain what he is doing or why he is doing it. It is presumptuous to assume that such profound matters could be explained in terms that you would understand.

6. Submit to novel experimental treatment readily. Though the surgery may not benefit you directly, the resulting research paper will surely be of widespread interest.

7. Pay your medical bills promptly and willingly. You should consider it a privilege to contribute, however modestly, to the well-being of physicians and other humanitarians.

8. Do not suffer from ailments that you cannot afford. It is sheer arrogance to contract illnesses that are beyond your means.

9. Never reveal any of the shortcomings that have come to light in the course of treatment by your doctor. The patient-doctor relationship is a privileged one, and you have a sacred duty to protect him from exposure.

10. Never die while in your doctor’s presence or under his direct care. This will only cause him needless inconvenience and embarrassment.

Courts are Driving me Crazy

Two unrelated court cases transpired in two different countries, one concerns a bad case of driving and the other centres around an insurance company.

The latter is about a North Carolina man who purchased some fairly expensive cigars and insured them against fire in 1997. So the guy smokes his entire collection of rare, insured cigars and before making one premium payment he files a claim against the insurance company. His claim was that he lost his cigars in a ‘series of small fires’ and since the insurance company refused to pay out, he sued them. Of course the judge ruled that since the insurance company actually insured the cigars against fire damage it was obligated to pay for the man’s loss. Rather than cover the costs of a lengthy trial, the insurance company agreed to pay the sum of $15,000 to the man for the loss of his cigars. After the man cashed his cheque, the insurers had him arrested on 24 accounts of arson. With his own insurance claim and testimony from the earlier case, he was convicted of intentionally burning the rare cigars and sentenced to 24 consecutive one-year terms.

The former took place a little closer to home in Roscommon, Ireland. A 19-year-old was arrested for dangerous driving on the 4th of July 2009. His charges being: on July 4th – dangerous driving on two accounts, driving without a licence, driving as a Learner Driver unaccompanied and on January 13 – driving with no licence, driving with no insurance, driving with no tax, having two bald tyres, driving without a warning device fitted to an MPV, front identification marks not properly distinguishable, driving without Learner plates and driving as a Learner Driver unaccompanied. He was also charged with not displaying a parking disc. The star witness for the court was a Garda who witnessed everything: he saw the car veer very close to a group of students who had to jump out of the way. When the officer of the law questioned the driver, he was told that he thought it was ‘a bit of fun’ and that he didn’t think it was dangerous. The Garda also said that the tax had been out since the previous August of 2008 and when the insurance company were called the police were informed that a policy had been taken out in November but had expired the next month.

The best part comes next – the lawyer tried to get the guy off the hook by stating that his client didn’t know the danger of cars and that he didn’t know his insurance was lapsed as his family were meant to be paying for it. Luckily this guy is off our roads for the next four years and whether or not he goes to prison depends on how well he does in his school exams.

One of these stories is untrue and you can judge for yourself which it is but to be honest, both cases seem plausible. What really concerns me is the ruling by the court. In circumstance you have an insane insurance case that, when you take into consideration all the frivolous suits you see filed in American courts, is actually believable. The other has a teenager driving recklessly and only getting a 4 year disqualification – surely after endangering the lives of 20 students he should have been sent to prison or at the very least had his licence removed indefinitely!

Social Internet Etiquette

  • Do not talk about Myspace. Ever.
  • Unless the conversation goes: “Hey, do you remember Myspace?”      “No.”
  • Or you’re checking out how many hits your awesome band has.

  • If it’s one of your Facebook friends’, friends’, friends’, friends’, friends’, friends’ birthday, and you don’t write happy birthday on their wall, then you should reconsider the friendship.
  • “Maybe Attending” is nicer than saying “Not Attending”.
  • It is your responsibility as their Facebook friend to tag them in any photo they appear in, no matter how far in the distance they are or how big a part of their body is shown – unless they look decent. Then the aforementioned responsibility forfeits.
  • You need to join every group that makes you say “oh yeaaahhh” when you read the group title.
  • You must become a lowly farmer on Farmville and rise through the ranks to Master Farmer.

  • If you can say it in less than 140 characters it’s probably not that interesting – just tweet it.
  • You should be followed by at least one Eastern-European female who links to malicious websites. If this isn’t the case you are doing something wrong.
  • You should always aim to have more followers than you are following, as it is this ratio that determines your coolness.
  • You should follow famous people and believe in your heart that the famous person is personally replying to you and not some random douche or aide.

  • Unfortunately the social norms of AOL were lost when the great library in Alexandria was set on fire in 48 B.C. Which, coincidentally, is also around the time you should have stopped using AOL.

  • If you are going to upload videos, vlogging is mandatory.
  • Every video deserves 5 stars – even if you didn’t like it. A lot of work went into these videos, and the maker may return the rating when he/she sees your video uploads.
  • If you upload a video, it is important to post a response to the video a week later.

  • You must be no older than 15
  • Every known application must be added to your page or else no one will bother to look
  • You must receive love on a daily basis from each friend or people will know that you are not popular
  • There are over 10,000 “what kind of a” quizzes available and each must be filled out to determine what kind of a dancer/shoe/cable you are.

Multitask your iPhone

Apple will be introducing a multitasking solution through the handset’s 4.0 software update that will allow several party apps to run simultaneously and in the background.

People with a proven track record in predicting Apple’s technological advances tell AppleInsider that the Cupertino-based company has developed a “full-on solution” to multitasking on the iPhone OS but offered no specifics on how the technology would optimize resource conservation and battery life — two of the most critical issues surrounding the matter, alongside security.

Read the full report from Apple Insider here

The system’s phone, SMS, email, iPod, voice recorder, Nike+, and certain other bundled apps can continue in the background while another app is launched. However, third party titles obtained from the App Store (including apps from Apple, such as Remote or iDisk) can not be launched at the same time.

This behavior is prevented by the iPhone OS’ security model, which is designed to close the current app whenever the user returns to the Home screen or accepts an incoming call. This design prevents apps from being able to run in the background without the user knowing, and erasing any real potential for spyware, adware and viruses.

This isn’t a technical problem for the multitasking iPhone OS, but does introduce new issues for users. Because the iPhone OS doesn’t present a conventional windowing user interface, launching multiple apps requires the addition of a new interface mechanism that allows users to intuitively switch between apps without introducing too much new complexity.

Installing lots of background processes will inevitably eat up battery life and performance, so adding multitasking features that are valuable without creating a mess for users to deal with requires solving a variety of non-obvious problems that are very apparent on other mobile platforms that claim to deliver functional multitasking.

Potential solutions include saving the state of and parking the foreground app, or scaling down the execution of a background app, so that multiple app execution does not overwhelm the limited resources available on mobile devices. Either one would allow the user to quickly switch between running apps without seeing much downside. Today’s iPhone OS requires a brief layover to the Home screen before jumping from the current app to launch another one.

More system RAM and faster processors will also help to improve the experience of users who want to quickly switch between multiple apps.

LOLcats and HotDogs

Recently I’ve been looking at the icanhascheezburger site…to laugh. They feature Lolcats and HotDogs

A lolcat is an image combining a photograph of a cat, with a humorous and idiosyncratic caption in English (and usually grammatically incorrect) —a dialect which is known as “lolspeak” or “kitty pidgin” and which parodies the poor grammar you see in internet slang (think a 14-year-old instant messaging).

The term lolcat gained national media attention in the United States when it was covered by Time, which wrote that non-commercialized phenomena of the sort are increasingly rare, stating that lolcats have “a distinctly old-school, early 1990s, Usenet feel to [them]”.

Entertainment Weekly put them on its end-of-the-decade, “best-of” list, saying, “Da cutest distractshun of da decaid? Y, lolcats of corse! We can neber haz enuf of deez capshioned pics of cuddlie kittehs.”

These Lolcat pictures can either be shockingly incorrect on grammar and spelling:

Or they can be just plain funny:

And of course this particular website has not left out the canine species, which are exactly the same as lolcats, only in dog form:

Laughter is a given, check out lolcats here at icanhascheezburger or hotdogs at ihasahotdog