Monday, August 24, 2009

A Fresh Look

Ok folks, the few of you who follow this blog. Time for a fresh look. Nothing in the current debate on Healthcare reform is dealing with the real issues of our healthcare system. Our elected representatives, lobbyists and pundits are debating and fighting to keep or gain more power.

The heart of the problem with healthcare is NOT the care. It is the billing, the cost, and to some extent, the delivery of services and medicine. To cure this will take some honest debate on difficult subjects. In my own life, I fought and made an impact just on the universe that surrounded me and my family and what directly affected us and primarily, the care my wife received during her losing battle with cancer and the costs and payment structures that we encountered. Today, I am fighting similar fights with my own preventative healthcare. I was not informed that I would be charged for services from three different entities, even though I only visited one for a common procedure of a colonoscopy. It can be argued that I should have known better, but I was still not informed beforehand. I was only required to pay a 25% deposit on what I was told by St. Lukes Hospital as "the charge for the procedure". I have consequently received explanation of benefits from my insurance company alerting me that the doctor - Midwest Enterology and the anesthesiologist have also made claims with my insurance company. So, a procedure I was led to believe would cost me about $860 is likely going to see me writing checks for nearly $2500. And this should be higher as St. Luke's Hospital is standing by their original estimate but submitted the wrong code causing my insurance company to quote a lower price as the ceiling for which they would pay. But the EOB (explanation of benefits) later showed a corrected claim and that the insurance "covered" about $1800. This is to my benefit as I am not having to pay as much out of pocket as is being credited against my deductible. I want to be fair and with full disclosure on this. Since I carry a $5000 deductible, that means I am liable to pay all that applies for the first $5000 per year. My philosophy is that insurance is for those catastrophic events, not maintenance and I believe that we need to get away from having all services paid for some $15 or $30 copay and never realize just how high these costs really are. So I am prepared to cover that deductible if it happens. You don't buy auto insurance that covers cost of maintenance or minor repairs. But alas, I have seen solicitations for just such "insurance" labeled more aptly as extended, third party warranty policies. You pay a monthly premium in lieu of paying directly for repairs. It is also a likely bad financial deal. And the same goes for your home owners insurance. Does that pay for you new water heater? To paint regularly? No. Those policies expressly do not cover what should be regular maintenance or have been avoided with regular maintenance.

Why cannot the same be done for healthcare?

Now if you've followed this, you've certainly realized there are many problems on many levels. Insurance - why different coverage rates for the same procedure? It either costs what it costs or it doesn't.

Why are all these provider entities allowed to charge us when we have not met them ahead of time and certainly are never made aware of what each of their fees are going to be? Why cannot the facility that they work out of be the sole billing entity? Or.. why not the doctor's office providing the actual service bill me for those other services that are necessary to perform the procedure and they pay each of those entities they needed to contract with?

This is what I am championing and going to fight as best I can. And if I can get reasonable results for myself, I intend to evangelize this small victory and encourage others to also pursue this same quest. Or influence a St. Luke's or a doctor's group to reexamine this situation and consider changing or actually changing the way they do business.

On the insurance front, this is our real prohibitive cost to individuals and companies alike and the one area the government, the Democrats and the Obamas and Clintons see the most money and power. Insurance reform is what is needed first. Then provider cost and practices. Government takeover is not the answer though it can, admittedly, be part of the answer.

If we empower the individual as a healthcare consumer as we are informed consumers in almost all other areas of our lives, then change will sweep the land. All forms of insurance and retirement funds must be from the individual and end the practice of companies providing these benefits. Yes, a company could directly contribute to a health insurance account or a retirement account but it would be only in the employee's name and travel with them as jobs change or family circumstances change. The COBRA program is the epitome of government intervention forcing consumers to triple or more their cost of insurance. That program does not simply state that the former employee must now only cover the portion of the premium previously paid for by their former employer and that the insurance company cannot remove them from that group of insured, exclude or cancel their policy so long as payments are maintained and no premium cost added to the cost of those premiums. But the insurance companies successfully lobbied for the structure of COBRA and COBRA is completely unaffordable for anyone for more than a few months. Thus the program is forcing individuals off of the insurance roles and have greatly contributed to 47 million or more individuals not being insured.

Let's now look at insurance itself. An initial look at Health or Medical Savings Plans appear as an excellent program for individuals to begin to save toward self insurance or a large amount of invested funds to cover high deductibles and thus more affordable high deductible insurance policies. But this is not the case. You are limited to how much you can put into an HSA or MSA, you are required to carry a high deductible insurance policy to qualify to even have an HSA or MSA and the insurance company actually controls and has possession of the HSA and MSA funds. Its not your money. You leave them, you cannot recover those funds. You cannot state what medical costs gets paid from those funds. Again, government intervention set up by self serving lobbyists.

Has anyone thought about those "lifetime caps" on how much your insurance company will pay out over your lifetime? How about if health insurance, much like life insurance, was about purchasing a leveraged amount of money? And you decide what YOU wish for that fund to pay and what you wish to pay yourself? And that fund be transferable and tax free like many other assets to your family members? The amount necessary can easily be determined by most any actuary. It would be logical that a 60 year old might not use as much in healthcare over the rest of their life as a 20 year old might. But it is far from a simple linear equation. As we all know, the older we get, the more health problems we encounter and are likely to incur. But at 60, would I blow through $2 million dollars before I die? I seriously doubt it. That critical of an illness I would likely not survive before racking up $2 million in charges. But I'll keep an open mind if someone wants to prove otherwise to me.

Certainly a 20 year old has the potential for spending $2 million or perhaps even $5-15 million if one factors in gender and pregnancies, preventive care or family planning and the current abomination that is soaring healthcare costs if those costs continue unchecked for the next 60 years.

My current health insurance has a $5 million lifetime cap. American Republic Insurance keeps raising my montly premiums 12-18% every six months regardless of claim activity or the lack thereof and preventive care initiatives that I take to keep myself and my son healthy. Then, they deny coverage of those charges toward my deductible, even though they don't actually pay out any of those charges as they do not meet the threshold of my deductible and in keeping healthy, they likely will not have to pay out for that year. So, as my rates increase at about 3 to 4 times the rate of inflation and the rate of medical cost inflation, I still only have a finite amount of money available to me to use for future medical needs. Does this sound fair? It never has to me.

I would venture that I could literally purchase a policy on a set amount of money over a 10, 20, 30 or even 50 year period for an amount of premium per month and never have that premium change for the life of the policy. The amount of the premium can easily be determined by age, health status, lifestyle. And purchasing these types of policies would eliminate the notion of preexisting conditions. The cost of those conditions can be figured into how much should that policy amount be - $2 million? $5 million? $15 million? And the age and life expectancy of the consumer. Very simple.

In my quest to lower my insurance rates, Assurant (formerly Fortis) has a policy in which they provide a lifetime cap of $15 million. This sounds extravagant to me and too much to have to hold or have in reserve in some manner. I will discontinue pursing a new healthcare plan with them since they require me to give some stranger on the phone my bank account number AND routing number to "lock in the rate" until approval. Or I could give them my credit card. All the while they claim "I will not be charged until I sign an acceptance form". Damn right I won't. Nor will I ever give out that info till a company determines that I do qualify. Assurant informed me "we cannot run everybody through the approval process".

And thus you have the crime that is our insurance industry.

We as business owners have the right to turn away any business if we do not feel the risk is worth the effort. But we do not ask for a client's bank information until they request credit to be extended, not just to have the privilege of doing business with us.

I just believe there is a better way and one way is that more of us take control of our healthcare financing and begin to put the pressure on our providers and on the drug companies by shopping around when possible and by searching out and rewarding progressive, ethical insurance companies willing to provide a reasonable product for a long period of time. The one and two year policy model must come to an end. Providers must set up and publish their rates and not be allowed to mark up services substantially to cover costs for indigent healthcare when likely those costs are greatly exaggerated. To stop punishing those without health insurance but willing to pay for services at rate exhorbitant to those who have insurance or to those who abuse the system. We must also start insisting that everyone should prioritize good health and medical expenses up to 20% of their income for the fixed income or poorer of our neighbors rather than not paying anything or government paying the stipend for their care. Then the whole debate of those here legally or illegally would be moot. Not up the the provider to ask or know that. They just bill whomever comes through the door and expects them to pay or make payments. And for those who cannot afford these services, which would be most of us, allow providers to collect up to 20% of household income for such services. Then all are participating in the system, not just unbalancing it.

But then most things in life are the priorities to which we have chosen, not the priorities that are proper.

Some solutions for thought. If anyone has a contact or way they believe they could help inpact this revolution in insurance, please contact me via commenting to this post. Or if you know me, contact me directly or put people in touch with me. We start reform by affecting the world around us. Let's get on with the revolution!

Russ Wojtkiewicz

Monday, March 9, 2009

The "Change" Everyone Knew Was Coming

It has happened today.  A single man's directive to usher in more unethical and greedy science than actual research for actual, working cures.  The harbinger of death is no more evident than in this Administration's actions and the will of the Democratic Party.  The propaganda being spewed by the proponents and President Obama himself is misleading at the very least.  His saying that human cloning will never be allowed for "human reproduction" is laudable, but impossible to control with his executive order to allow embryonic stem cell research.  Proof of this is the successful use of the term "stem cell research" to include embryonic stem cell use and research and pinning those of us against only the embryonic stem cell industry as our being against all stem cell research.  That huge deception is going to bankrupt this country financially and morally, if we are not already.

As one can attest via today's stock market, those few, special interest companies mainly working in embryonic stem cell research have seen their stocks soar.  Not benefitting from this executive order are the companies who have been continuing their research and development in ADULT stem cell research.  They actually have cures and treatments in the pipeline.  No embryonic stem cell R&D has yet to show ANY, ANY success using embryonic stem cells.

Today, I would predicate, sets the path for further enslavement of our lower class, the market of purchasing women's eggs for use in research and thus more women put in harms way in exchange for financial gain (called enslavement folks), and billions and billions of taxpayer dollars to prove in ten years that still, as in the last ten years by California research companies, that embryonic stem cells cannot be harnessed or used for predictable treatments and cures.  Remember, Korea hailed great success, only for the announcement to be exposed as a fraud.  Same thing happened in Britain.  This research has been going on since the 1960s without one success.

President Obama today orated the same, tired "potential to cure diabetes, spinal cord injuries, Parkinsons Disease".  Note the use, after all these years, of the word "potential".  Yet, being shunned and ignored are the 60-70 treatments now being used by patients of adult stem cells to treat all manner of medical treatments.  The politicians, celebrities and research professionals have cast off these successes and avoided recognizing and praising them as it would hurt their agenda of promoting abortion and human cloning and the slippery slope we all know will lead to such atrocities as designer babies, the early detection and abortion of less than perfect, in the eyes of the vain, babies "who might be a problem".  None of us on this side of this argument have any problem whatsoever with the use of cord blood for stem cells, placenta for stem cells, rhino cells, skin cells and likely more I am not aware of.  Use of OUR OWN CELLS to heal us!

The bottom line here is that OUR cells cannot be PATENTED as a line of developed cells.  But grow a set of embryonic cells and the law says you can.  Thus the huge, highly funded propaganda campaigns to fund embryonic cells rather than let the market and actual scientific progress focus funds to the research that works.  This flies straight into the face of Healthcare reform to make healthcare more affordable and more accessible.  Rather than allow us to bank or have our own cells donated to heal each of us, our government is deciding it is better to put women's health at risk, insure fewer babies born, population decline and (if it even works) of near monopolization of cures so that like chemo drugs, stem cell treatments can be made expensive simply because so few companies are allowed to even manufacture these potential cures.

It just makes no sense other than greed and social engineering to fund embryonic stem cell research.  But then, I believe, the Liberal socialist agenda is to force the majority of Americans to accept the Liberal agenda of no morals, no God, no ethics and redistribution of wealth except as it concerns them.

Next - the "Freedom of Choice Act".  Choice to kill a baby at any point in its life just because he or she is unwanted.  And the Choice here is that Doctors will be required to comply with a patients request to abort the pregnancy at any time and not allowed to contact her parents if she is under age.  And no Pro Life consultation will be allowed if the clinic does not choose to allow such alternative 'choice'.

I'm still looking where the "Choice" is in the FOCA bill.

God Help Us!

Russ Wojtkiewicz

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Two steps forward, three steps back

Ok, ok, so I'm quoting lyrics from a Paula Abdul song.  It was a great video merging her dance and an animated wolf.

But, the dance is not unlike the Dow Jones Industrials.  All were hopeful that Wednesday's 150 point gain might harbinger the end of the stock market's downward free fall.  But of course, we learned today that it was not to be as we not only lost the gains of Wednesday but retreated all but another 150 points.  We're now flirting with a 6500 Dow.  Seems the current administration is not the only one who cannot deliver on promised plans and details.  China revealed it didn't have a stimulus plan for its own economy.  And we started holding a conference on how to reform healthcare in America.

This whole ordeal is so bad, New York stock brokers are cold calling us in the midwest with very low key introductions to ask if they can call us back when they have a line on some good investment opportunities.  Yes, I got one of these calls.  And I checked them out.  All true.  They are lining up new investors once they believe a bottom has occurred.

Interesting in this conversation, I mentioned I was looking for alternative energy companies that tailor to residential, not utility customers.  This broker stated that was going to be hot.  Well, aside from the line of bovine scantology he just fed me, I would hope he is right beyond our wildest dreams.

If you get a chance, check out the video sort of explaining the great new Smart Grid on the GE website

Sounds great, right?  Central control of all electrical outlets and appliances so less energy is used or demanded and therefore keeping costs down.  It will be joyous on that day in July or August as we who have home offices pleasantly work away on our computers and office equipment, maintaining a comfortable temperature in our home office.  Then, our UPS battery backup systems alert us that power has been lowered or cutoff.  We power down our equipment and notice that the air conditioner is not running.  Check the thermostat and it now says it is set to maintain 85º, we thinking for sure in the fact we had it set for 78º or 80º.  We check the breaker box for a tripped breaker.  All circuits are intact.  We get creative and dig out our AC meter.  No reading.  None.  No lights.  Ah, but I'm a trained engineer and have a multimeter (or several).  Hmm.  Outlet dead as a power outage in a December ice storm.  But not all circuits are out.   Freezer and Refrigerator are still in good working order.  Then, about 6pm, after about 3 hours of deciding to take in some sun and a beer on the deck since working was interrupted, the air conditioner kicks back on and sure enough, the UPS says it has line power again.

Thank you there Big Brother for keeping me from earning a living for 1/2 a day and making it harder to afford to pay for that electricity you are "saving".  And for saving our planet!  Bless you.

Cinch down the safety belts folks.  Its going to be a wild ride.  We just don't know when the checkered flag will wave and we can relax for awhile.....

But I promise, my solution is coming.  Humble as it will be and it is only one opinion.  But it starts with one idea being published.  Then talked about.  Perhaps even debated.  And who knows, perhaps an idea can then be perfected by other ideas and real change takes place.

I don't know about you, but this change ushered in by our new President seems intensely familiar.  Well, like climate change, any difference can be defined as change I suppose.  But like the current climate, Washington looks awful normal to me.

Russ Wojtkiewicz

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Remember This Day...

In the now immortal words of FDR, after that fateful day in 1941, "Today is a day that will live in infamy".

Remember this day, February 17, 2009.  Historians will trace our future problems back to this date.

This Recovery Act bill not only plunges all of us into a severe national debt that we may not recover from, but has in it social engineering and government control programs that we will not realize until two to five years from now of just how controlling these new programs and rules are on our daily lives.

All the talk of "alternative energy", yet not one word on aiding the individual to become energy self sufficient.  In fact, the "individual" is notably absent in this Recovery Act.  It is a direct bribe to businesses, state and local governments and vulnerable citizens to sacrifice the opportunity to succeed on their own and to abandon their uniqueness  and individuality.  I listened to the President's address before he signed the Recovery Act into law.  I heard everything concerned with huge public utilities, huge government, huge business, huge unions.  Nothing about how we can increase our stability and strength in individual achievement, innovation and investment.  It is all about the Federal Government calling the shots and everyone falling into line.

I now do fear what might happen come the anticipated April 15th.  I have heard many predictions concerning a crash on or about that date.  It is also clear now that 2009 is going to be a very rough financial year.  And that 2010 might see only the beginning of any true recovery.

We have far to fall as I am in the camp that believes our economy is not that bad but made to sound much worse than it is by our new President and the proponents of passing this bill.  It will also most likely come out that most of the proponents of this Recovery Act benefit in some manner with its passage - monetarily or with increased authority.  The coming storm will make the Clinton Impeachment and the Blagojevich scandal look like spring break misdemeanors.

Three-quarters of a trillion dollars is just asking for rampant corruption.

What's the answer?  Vote in two years.  Vote in four years.  Be careful who you choose, especially at your local levels.  But do not be afraid to vote for the unknown or a new candidate.  Do not let the temptation of senior representatives being good for your district cloud your reason to vote for a particular candidate.  This selfishness and the mindset that accompanies such thought is why we no longer trust our politicians or the Democratic or Republican parties and thus have created an industry of professional politicians, not representatives from our rank and file citizenry.

Beyond that, the answers are tough.  Save your money. Spend reasonably.  Prepare, prepare, prepare.  Prepare for an economic onslaught that none of us can imagine.  Prepare for the worst. Pray it never happens.  Pray for the best.

Believe in miracles.  Make those miracles happen YOURSELF!

Russ Wojtkiewicz

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Good Grief!

In the immortal words of Ronnie Reagan, "Well, there you go again.."

And haven't they?!  And I'm talking each and every member of Congress who voted in the affirmative for the stimulus bill of $787 billion (yes, that is a B).  This one bill alone draws each census counted man, woman and child citizen another $2,623.34 into debt. the national debt.  I was wrong in an earlier email that it put each citizen over $2 billion each.  The math skills are not what they once were.

Most would agree that likely more could be done economically for the country by simply giving all this money out in direct payments rather than making millionaires of a few good ol' boy constituents through pork barrel projects or direct payoffs to targeted unions for delivering Democrat votes.

Or studying some damn furry little mouse outside of San Francisco.  I can't wait to read what other corruption is in the details within that 1,000 page bill.

Oh yeah, President Obama, I'm still waiting for your change in transparency and this bill to be on line at all, let alone your promised 48 hours before it is to be voted on.  Guess that went the way of your insistence that no lobbyists serve in your administration, uh.

Our country is headed for very rough times.  $2 Trillion and counting has been spent on a problem that isn't that big, that damaging, or that much of a crisis.  The restaurants (the good ones) are sold out for this Valentine's Day.  Good value retailers are reporting increased business.  Fuel is down, for now, thus allowing cost effective transport of materials.  It is not an economy in crisis.  But our Democrat controlled government is doing its best to turn it into a crisis.  Perhaps on the notion that they can then reverse what they've done or put a majority of us on welfare and thus claimed they are the party that has saved us.

And to insure this happens and Democrats stay in power?  White House Chief of Staff takeover of the Census.

Stay aware.  Become a sentry. Our freedoms are at risk at an accelerated pace.  The Republican party is on board with this though a few are finally getting a conscience and a backbone, but only after they were party to propagating this fiasco.

Pitchforks are being sharpened across the country.  Lanterns in the steeples are being prepared and gatherings in our local taverns by our real patriots is growing!  Achieving both economic stimulus for small businesses and bringing this country together!

The revolution begins with you.  The revolution begins with me.  The revolution begins here.

Vote. Vote. Vote!

Russ Wojtkiewicz

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Welcome to Platte Valley Politics

Welcome to my blog about politics titled "Platte Valley Politics".  I hope that valley is big, wide and long as this name was the one that was available and not really the one that better represents what I had in mind.  So, I guess I'll research my area geography and familiarize myself topographically with my area.  Too many in politics and those playing in it don't know the topography of the land they are traversing.  Most of us find the landscape too daunting and we simply reject exploring it let alone walking it regularly.

My first choice for a URL was Heartland Politics, but it was taken as was Midwest Politics.  I wanted the name and the URL to be the same for your ease to find and remember the blog's location.

I know, I'm already swimming upstream with the natural rules of politics - logical thought and action.

Get ready.  This is going to be the new site for Patriots to forge a new thinking - return to our roots from hence this country started.  Heatedly debated, hard won implementation of a set of rules to be self-governed.  My wish for this site is to become the modern day cyberspace equivalent of the colonial tavern  where ideas were flushed out and our passionate patriots assembled to begin first the resistance of tyranny and then the birth of a self-governed nation.

I have intentions and dreams of also operating a brick and mortar version.  Right - open a new business in the midst of an economic meltdown.  I have not boasted to actually have intelligence.  But I have been in business for 19 years and having a business fail is not daunting compared to seeing the ability for anyone in this country to open their own business become prohibitive - either economically or legally - because of the actions of our elected body politic of whom few exhibit real business sense or experience.

So, I've reached a goal.  Opening up my political blog.  I plan to open this to commentary from my readers.  But no anonymity will be allowed.  My name is on this.  So should yours.  No courage to identify yourself means no right to publish your thoughts and ideas.  No martyr ever went unknown.  No person affecting real change ever did so in anonymity.  Too many wish to operate in anonymity via the digital age.  Any wonder we've become so partisan and a litigiously vile society?  One exhibits their passion and determines the worth of the fight when facing your colleagues and rivals.  Just like those early Patriots in those cramped fellowship halls of the village taverns.

Russ Wojtkiewicz