arteejee

A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Health Insurance? What Health Insurance?



The news has been very good lately for President Obama’s signature health care reform law. The administration has met its target of 7 million people signed up on the www.healthcare.gov website. Now the Congressional Budget Office projects that 12 million previously uninsured people will gain healthcare coverage this year. The CBO report also states that the law will cost the government $5 billion less than previously projected.

This is all wonderful news, if only the health insurance industry actually offered a product that is worth the paper on which it’s printed.

Before the Affordable Care Act became law, most policies offered a relatively low deductible. There would be co-payments for in-network providers and higher coinsurance rates if patients went to providers outside of their network. Also, most policies carried a lifetime maximum of $1 million.
 
Most important of all, these plans would actually pay out benefits to help offset the cost of healthcare before the benefit period (usually calendar year) ended. Offsetting costs was the main reason why people paid premiums for healthcare coverage. Payments validated the concept of health insurance. Those policies - unless you happen to be lucky enough to have a health plan through a union - are disappearing fast.

In recent years, the health insurance industry started offering so-called consumer driven high deductible health plans. These plans predate the ACA by several years, so it is not fair to blame the proliferation of these policies on the law. These plans are popular with consumers, so say the insurance industry. The main attraction is the low premiums.

Businesses and individuals are paying next to nothing in premiums for these plans because it is all that most people can afford. For these low premiums, the consumer gets no benefits until the catastrophic level deductible - ranging from $2,000 to $6,000/year and higher - is satisfied. In other words, if you pay next to nothing in premiums, you should expect to get (all together now) next to nothing in benefits. Many people expect better than this, and are absolutely stunned when they learn that they are responsible for the first two or three thousands of dollars of medical costs.

I know this is true: I’ve worked in customer service in various capacities within the health insurance industry for over 25 years. The complaining, whining, moaning, groaning, and screaming never stops. The hapless customer service rep can only confirm that the policy paid their claim correctly, sympathize with the caller, and advise them of their appeal rights. The only problem is that the customers themselves get little more than the rep's sympathy when all is said and done.

The consumer driven part is also a joke. The theory goes that if consumers shop around for prices on their healthcare costs, then the costs will be driven down all around. One small problem: providers are loath to release this sort of information ahead of time. I found this out when I tried to get a price for a CPAP mask through a local supplier. I wanted to compare it to prices I found on the Internet. When I asked for the price from my brick and mortar supplier, I was told that they did not have access to that information!

Really? The vendor who will sell me the item does not know how much it costs? Really?

I would not have cared about the price if I had a policy that would help cover it, but since the entire charge was applied to my deductible, I cared. Naturally, that’s the whole point of the high deductible health plans from the insurance carrier’s point of view. Or, as they are wont to say, it lets everyone “get a little more skin in the game.”  

Godfrey Daniels! I don’t mind paying my fair share, but I do want some skin left on my body at the end of the day! Is that so wrong?

It is also difficult to pin down the price of a procedure to an exact dollar amount owing for unforeseen circumstances. Sure, we could get a price of $2,000 for a surgery, but what if the patient suffers complications? How do you work that scenario into the equation?

The health insurance industry can hide behind the “consumers want this product argument all they want”, but it does not bode well for the concept of health insurance. It only perpetuates the widely held viewed (widely held by the consumers purchasing the policies at next to nothing prices) that insurance companies will do anything to keep from paying out claims. It is as if the health insurance industry is throwing its hands in the air, and admitting that health care costs are even too high for them to pay, even with negotiated fees. In this scenario, they can no longer validate their concept.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not have health insurance. I have Independence Blue Cross. These two lines are not a contradiction.

(Thank you for reading! Health insurance? I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ health insurance! HA!)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bubba Returns



News Item: Political pundits note the Democratic Party is courting the young female vote in anticipation of the 2014 mi-term elections. This looks like a job for BUBBA!

(music up)

Scene: an apartment somewhere in America. A young woman is curled up on her couch, texting friends on her iphone. There is a knock on the door.

WOMAN: Who is it?

CLINTON: It’s Bill Clinton for the Democratic Party!

(the woman cautiously opens the door and the 42nd President of the United States steps inside)

CLINTON: Good evening, miss. As I said, I am Bill Clinton and I am going door to door to talk to young voters like you about the Democratic Party!

WOMAN: Ooh! I like parties! Will there be beer?

CLINTON: (chuckles) Well, no, it’s not that kind of party. The Democratic Party is an organization dedicated to serving America’s young people, creating opportunities which will make them stronger, better citizens.

WOMAN: Oh, um, okay.

CLINTON: Is there something wrong?

WOMAN: Well, no, it’s just that the Democrats really pushed for Obamacare and that made my friends and I buy health insurance that we don’t really need! We’re not sick! My friends and I are all healthy! We don’t see why we need to choose between paying for health insurance or a tax penalty! It’s not fair!

CLINTON: Well, I feel your pain, but the Democrats are more than just Obamacare! Let me take a moment to get some information from you for our demographics department. They make me complete an exhaustive questionnaire for everyone to whom I speak. I’ll just be a minute. You can just stand her and admire my Adonis-like physique…

WOMAN: Oh, okay!

CLINTON:  ...while I get my pen and paper out. Okay, let’s see, gender. Obviously female. Um, can I ask your age?

WOMAN: 26!

CLINTON: Good! Well above the age of consent…um, single or married?

WOMAN: Single!

CLINTON: Great! Thank you! That completes our exhaustive questionnaire! Well, let me ask you, what are your concerns about living in America?

WOMAN: Oh, I don’t know. I just enjoy living my life in freedom, working at a great job, and hanging out with my friends. I don’t like someone else telling me what I can and can’t do.

CLINTON: I understand. Could we sit on your couch and discuss this?
(they sit on her couch)

CLINTON: You know, I was young once and I had the same feelings that you have now. Then I realized that sometimes we all need some amount of authority in our lives. Whether you know it or not, we human beings all crave structure in our lives. Government provides that need to make life better for everyone.

WOMAN: Well, I don’t know…

CLINTON: I know, I’m talking in generalities. Maybe I should be more specific to your concerns. How do you feel about birth control?

WOMAN: Well, it’s okay, I guess. Oh, I don’t use them myself!

CLINTON:  Of course not! My point is that the Democratic Party would allow you the freedom to choose whether you want to use them or not. The Democratic Party is trying to preserve your right to choose to have an abortion if, for some unforeseen reason, you end up being pregnant and you do not want to keep the baby. The Republican Party wants to take away your reproductive rights.

WOMAN:  Re…re…what was that first word you said?

CLINTON: Reproductive rights?

WOMAN: No, that first word you said with re…repub…

CLINTON: Oh, Republican!

WOMAN: Yeah, that’s it! Anyway, I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant. I don’t have a boyfriend.

CLINTON: Oh, really? (slides closer to the woman) Our questionnaire didn’t cover that! I’ll have to talk to our pollsters in the demographic department. (the woman giggles)

CLINTON: Say, is it getting hot in here or is it just me?

WOMAN: Oh, I don’t know. Anyway, there is something else your questionnaire didn’t cover…

CLINTON: What? Wait, your name…your name isn’t Monica by some chance?

WOMAN: No, my name isn’t Monica, Bill Clinton!

CLINTON: Wait, that voice! You’re…you’re…
(the woman rips her mask off her head)

CLINTON: Mama Grizzly!

SARAH PALIN: That’s right, Bill! And I can tell you you’re not man enough to
take on my values!

CLINTON: Really? You forget that I’ve been married to Hillary for nearly 40 years! If I can handle her…

SARAH PALIN: I’m also not alone! Todd! Get in here and whip some conservative values into this liberal pussy! (pumps fist into the air) Barefoot and pregnant forever! Woo-hoo!

CLINTON: Curses! Busted again!

(Thank you for reading! Hillary! Look out! Incoming Nike!)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

One Last Bloggerpalooza Note…



Before the sweet memories of our recent blogger meetup fades from our memory, I want to share a moment from the golden days of television comedy. This was prompted by a recognition by one of the bloggers that my ape costume was a little tribute to the Nairobi Trio. One of the other bloggers wondered aloud, “Who is the Nairobi Trio?”

So, for JayinVA…this is the Nairobi Trio!


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Snort Bites- March 2014



DISCLAIMER AND EXONERATION

Let’s get this out of the way now. I know many of you have been wondering about our involvement in a certain issue. I realize you may have wondered what did I know and when did I know it?

Well, rest assured, we have taken every step to research and investigate my actions. This included intense questioning of myself (by myself), and interrogation of my spouse and our cat, Nyla. If I do say so myself, the inquiry was very rough; I nearly cracked under the pressure.

However we know now the results of our investigation and I must say it has reached a very satisfactory conclusion. I can now say with 100% certainty that I - and no one else here at arteejee - had anything to do with the closure of the George Washington Bridge in Ft. Lee, NJ last September.

I can just imagine how relieved you all are to get this news. Now we can all move on…

WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH LEADER FRED PHELPS DIES

Phelps, who led his family congregation on a long string of protests at military funerals as a pretext to denounce and vilify the gay community, succumbed on March 19. It is believed that he died from natural causes, but many people who felt his anger and hatred over the years may agree that his passing seemed like a good idea at the time. (And that is the extent of my cheap shot humor on this subject!) 

The news of Phelps death was accompanied by surprising reports that he had been excommunicated from his own church in August 2013. The church itself would not confirm this report, or a suspected reason that Phelps had softened his views prior to his ouster. If Phelps saw the light and worked to mend the error of his loathsome ways in his final year, it will be immaterial to many people. Any possible movement towards his own personal salvation will be viewed as too little, too late.

I will certainly never praise Phelps’ work, but I’m not going to dance on his 
grave either. Our reaction to his death is our chance to show his congregation and his followers the true meaning of Christianity. You know…that set of beliefs predicated on such virtues as redemption, salvation and forgiveness?  You know, as in “turn-the- other-cheek” forgiveness?

We could celebrate Phelps' passing with high fives and champagne toasts, but ultimately the hatred we would be expressing would be no different than the hatred that destroyed Phelps. Please, don’t take my word for it. Instead, consider the words of one who presumably felt the sting of the Westboro congregation’s actions over the years. Actor George Takei did an eloquent assessment of Phelps on his Facebook page:

“He was a tormented soul who tormented so many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead always goes to its lonely, dusty end.”

Amen.

(Thank you for reading. Last one on the George Washington Bridge is a rotten egg.)