Category Archives: Important Society Issues

How Screwed Up is our Medical Profession?

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I ran into a friend, Garth Prosser, in Breckenridge a couple weeks ago and he told me that last year he was diagnosed with Colon cancer.   I was surprised.  I remembered seeing him at the Berryman Epic last fall, but didn’t hear anything about him racing on chemo.

Anyway, after talking with him for a bit, he got me thinking and I decided that I need to get a colonoscopy.  It is way easier thinking you need one than actually getting one as it turns out.

I got on the computer and looked up all the places that do one in Topeka.  I am pretty sure my insurance isn’t going to pay for it, so I was shopping around.  The problem is that you can’t really shop around because no one really knows exactly how much it costs.  The Internet says that a cheap price in Kansas is around $500, good price $750 and expensive $1300.  I don’t know where they came up with those numbers, but the best/lowest price I could find after being on the phone for 3 hours was around $2000.  And I’m not sure that is a hard number really.

My best source of information was the billing company for a local hospital.  I told the women my situation and she seemed interested.  She told me it would be between $1200-$1600 for the surgery center, then the same about for the doctor.  But she said if I was self pay that they would reduce that amount by $600 each.  So that took the total procedure down to between $1200 and $2000.   Quite a spread there.

Then, at the end of the conversation, she told me she forgot the anesthetist charge, which would be another $600.   She said her computer didn’t show a self pay charge, so I should just wait 3 or 4 months after I receive the bill, then call them and they would come up with a reduction.  Wow.

I can’t think of another segment of our society that can’t quote you a price on something as important as this.  It is so convoluted and confusing that even reasonable thinking people can’t understand it.

I was reading that under the affordable health care act (Obamacare), that this might be covered. So I called my health insurance agent and asked her if she might know.  I’ve had the same health insurance for nearly 25 years.  Trudi and I are the only health policies the agent does still. She told me it is so screwed up and takes so much time, it isn’t worth it to her.

So she called my insurance company and talked to them.  After an hour, she called me back and said they couldn’t say if it would be covered and they needed some time to figure it out.  That each state has its own rules and they would get back to her shortly.  That was two days ago.

So I am still at square one.  I want to get this done, but don’t want to just spin a roulette wheel for the final cost.  I’m gonna get back at it today and see if I have some better luck.  Our medical system is so jacked up that I’m nearly embarrassed to be participating.  But, what choices do we have?

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Tucker wants me to take him out for run I think.

Tucker wants me to take him out for run I think.

Shootings

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Okay, I know this is a divisive subject, but I would be negligent if I didn’t address, once again, violence here in the United States and guns.  This is so sad, ridiculously stupid and it isn’t going to improve without our legal system addressing it.  And the only way it is going to be addressed is because of our outcry.  And we should, outcry.

Here is the deal.  People are very tired of being in danger.  No one likes to be scared.  People that don’t own guns are scared because of the prevalence of guns.  And people that have guns are so scared that they think they need protection.  It is a closed circle that only makes both sides more and more scared.

The two men that were shot recently in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge set off outrage.  I’m outraged.  The regular media, ie. newspapers with investigative reporting departments, have been replaced by social media.  Each person has an ability to report current news.  And one of the by-products of this is the reporting of police, over and over again, abusing their power.

You couldn’t pay me enough money to be a black man here in the United States.  Talk about being scared.  If I were born black, I would most likely be dead by now.  For sure I would be in jail.  Do you think guns are helping this situation?

I’m not assigning any blame to the victims here, but both the men killed were carrying guns. And, after watching the videos,  it seems that the knowledge of the existence of the weapons,by the police, added to the escalation of stress and ultimately to the shooting of both of these men.

Then to Dallas, nothing has really be released through normal media, but this has to have something to do with the other shootings.   Individuals, or a group, decided they were fed up with the injustices, so they took matters into their own hands.  So they got some rifles and shot 12 police officers, plus a couple by-standers too.   Of course, I can’t understand their final decision, but I do understand the thought process.

The 2nd amendment, which the NRA, and many others, believe give the people “the right” to possession of all nearly unlimited guns.   These people are obsessed with the notion that they must fight against any and all attempts by the government to infringe upon their right to keep and bear arms.  They believe if there is any legislation addressing this, then it loses all relevant meaning.  I don’t think they understand the meaning of an amendment.   And obviously they aren’t concerned about our society.

This amendment has been spun so many different ways.  I hear people say it is a way for the people to protect themselves from the government, if the government runs amuck.  I know, for sure, that many of our fellow citizens think the police, ie, government, has indeed, run amuck.

So some guys in Dallas decided to use “their right” to purchase sniper rifles and then execute police officers, in a different city, who had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the previous shootings.

We all have to face it, unless we do something about all this, it is going to get worse.  On July 4th, just 4 days ago, in Chicago, over 60 people were shot.  That is in one day.  Does that outrage you?  Probably not.  You’re thinking it is just bad people shooting bad people.  That is not the case.  There are children involved in these shootings.

If the Shandyhook school shooting didn’t cause enough outrage to change our society’s rules, then I’m worried nothing will.  20 elementary school children and 6 teachers killed by one guy. And it is just the same old status quo now.

The NRA spun it as a mental health issue, not a gun issue.  Maybe they are right, it is a mental health issue.  If so, there are a lot of folks here in the US that have these very issues and they nearly all have the ability to get an assault rifle and a glock.  Plus unlimited rounds of ammunition. That is the way the NRA wants it, guns for all.

They are even against a law that prohibits people that are on the no-fly list from purchasing guns.   They are worried, like I said above, that if there is legislation to limit any gun ownership, then the 2nd amendment becomes irrelevant.

I was in the hardware store here in Hayward and they sell 50 caliber rifles.  This rifle has an effective range of 2000 yards.  A variant of this rifle has a range of 4400 yards.  This is a sniper rifle. But, I can go down to the Ace Hardward and purchase it.  Then I can sell it to anyone I want, and it disappears from being traced.  Does anyone think that is correct?  Should it be allowed?  Not me.

Most other countries in the world have gun control laws.  And after passing this laws, their homicide rates have dropped dramatically.   And the well-being of the citizens of those countries have increased.

Like I initially said, we, as a society are scared.  We are scared of each other.  We are scared because we think that another person has the ability to kill them, very easily and impersonally.

That is the deal with guns, they are impersonal.  I very much doubt the guys that shot those kids in Chicago last Monday would have taken a hammer and smashed them on their heads.  Or slit their throats with a knife.  The distance a bullet allows, the space between the people is enough to allow the confrontation to occur many times.

We’re close to a tipping point.  Many of our citizens have had enough.  This is only going to get worse.  It is going to take a dramatic shift, one way or another., If we don’t shift it towards safety, the only other direction is to violence. Serious violence, like what is currently going on isn’t serious.  This isn’t going to be an quick or easy process, either way.

It is pretty ironic that citizens from the US are using their 2nd amendment right to buy weapons to actively create a climate where our quality of life with diminish more dramatically or the amendment needs to be addressed.

To wrap this up, we all need to participate in the change.  It is going to happen, change that is. I’ve travelled all over the world and let me tell you, the countries with rampant violence aren’t close to as good of a place to live as those with civil happiness.  And most, nearly all that have safe societies are those that have gun laws.  It is an undisputable fact.

 

Think an average US citizen has a use for this, a 50 caliber rifle? I think not.

Think an average US citizen has an use for this, a 50 caliber rifle? I think not.

 

 

Politicians Need to be Reasonable

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I try to stay clear of politics here, but it has gotten to such a tipping point, it is nearly impossible to do.  Kansas might be more screwed up politically than it has ever been before.  And that is saying something, because Kansas has a history of jacked up politics.

Politics.  I sort of hate that word.  We elect politicians to represent us, our views and supposedly our needs, to form the government that guides us.  I’m not sure it is working nowadays. Actually, I’m really sure it isn’t working.  Not even close.

There is even a book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas”.  The book is about how Kansas has become a poster child for conservatism here in the US when it was initially left-wing, the People’s Party, which evolved into the Democratic Party.  It is pretty interesting.

Anyway, we all have our issue with politics.  I think most Americans are dismayed with this presidential election.  Trudi just returned from Europe and she said she was asked all the time about this election.  Europeans are more up to speed on our elections than most Americans. Most Europeans think we a nuts, which is probably an accurate observation.

Kansans are the proud owners of the Koch brothers.  David and Charles Koch are the post childs of warping elections by throwing money at elections.  They inherited Koch industries, which, makes its money by coming up with a new way of refining oil.  Their father Fred, was one of the founding fathers of the John Birch Society.  Obviously their agenda is very, very conservative. Their influence is approaching a billion dollars this year.   I think they are having a problem with this year’s Presidential election.

Anyway, we have some serious budget problems here in Kansas.  Our governor, Sam Brownback, cut taxes, seriously, 3 years ago.  He made a law that excludes any small business, any LLC, from paying any state tax.  Now we have nearly 200,000 LLC, out of a total population of 3 million.  Our Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, is bragging about how many “new” businesses are starting up and how it is a leading economic indicator.  Pretty delusional guy.  I don’t understand why Kris can’t see all the “new businesses” are starting because of the tax law?

Anyway, through this tax cuts, our state budget is in the hole seriously.  We’ve already taken nearly $500 million out of the state highway fund to balance the general budget.  And our roads suck.  Our legislators just gave up, today, on trying to figure it out.  And that is what we elected them for.  They are too scared to raise taxes, because of re-election, that they were rather do nothing, and get re-elected, than to do something and risk being not elected.  Maybe that says something about the people voting for them.  It is just wrong.

Our elected officials are there to do a job.  Somehow they became so entrenched in their political views that they have become dysfunctional.  Just look at Kansas as an example of what can happen when people dig in and don’t compromise.  They are completely unreasonable. We’re circling the drain and no one seems to want to put the stopper in.

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Tucker had his first doggie cone yesterday.  He loved it as much as Bromont did.

Tucker had his first doggie cone yesterday. He loved it as much as Bromont did.

 

 

Annual Burning Rant

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This is the time of the year that the state is ablaze.  Kansas is fairly unique in the fact that for some reason, I very much fail to understand in this day and age of pollution control and health, we decide to set the whole state on fire for a couple months.  We burn the fields for weed control and so the cattle gain weight through more nutritious greenery.

I do this every year.  If you have never experienced, you wouldn’t believe it.  It is sometime like England must have been back in the 1600’s when they were burning peat and coal for heat and cooking.  Most nights and morning I walk outside and it smells like there is a fire in the neighborhood.  We took Tucker and Hawkeye out west of town to walk and we could see numerous plumes of smoke surrounding the whole city of Topeka.

I wither in these conditions.  I’m normally in a slump and my throat is raspy nearly all the time. Even the advertising on the radio warns of the hazards of the “wildfires”.

These aren’t wildfires.  These are set by man to make money.  I wonder if someone could actually tally up the health costs compared to the money for the cattle, if it would be a wash.

Most of the burning around Topeka isn’t for cattle.  It is ditches, fields with no fencing, nearly anywhere that will burn.  These people are pyromaniacs and don’t understand the burning is for a reason and not for fun.

They aren’t supposed to burn if the wind is over 15 miles per hour, but these people totally ignore that law.  I just went and saw the Segwick County burning permit.  It is free.  Maybe if it cost something, less people would do it for fun.  On the permit is says – YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR FIRE, AND ITS SMOKE. If that is the case, then someone owes me a plane ticket to leave here for awhile, because their smoke is going into my lungs.

Yesterday it was pretty windy.  Over 30 mph.  But they still burned.  The fires west got out of control and they were talking about evacuating a town of 1000 people.  The governor declared a state of emergency and 15 fire districts responded.  WTF?  We’re starting fires and burning down our own towns so cattle get heavier?  Photos from the Topeka paper.

Man, if my house burnt down because of a grass fire that was set on purpose, then I would be pissed.  I wonder if they called and told them that they were going to burn.  I could hardly ride my bike, why would someone light a fire.

Anyway, this is going on for another month.  Eventually someone is going to address the situation.  But our political bodies are so fucked up, it won’t be for a long while.  In the meantime, the beat goes on.

We couldn't decide how to avoid the smoke.

We couldn’t decide how to avoid the smoke.

This is a small one.

This is a small one.

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Front page of the paper this morning.

Front page of the paper this morning.

Tucker and Hawkeye are super buddies now.

Tucker and Hawkeye are super buddies now.

But, Tucker needs his alone time now that he is a teenager.

But, Tucker needs his alone time now that he is a teenager.

My arms are a mess from playing with Tucker. Sharp teeth and claws.

My arms are a mess from playing with Tucker. Sharp teeth and claws.

 

Terrorism

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Trudi is scheduled to fly to Europe this Tuesday for her job with BMC.  She is, by chance, supposed to be flying into Brussels, Belgium.  So, obviously, she is concerned about the terrorist act at that airport, but probably more so, what she needs to do personally to not allow the act of terrorism become just that, potential terror.

I’ve been talking to her a lot about it and intellectually, it is an easy thing.  But, emotionally, it is a harder think.

Everywhere, well virtually everywhere, is a potential site of an act of terror.  It is impossible to protect yourself from exposure, there are way too many potential targets.  You can’t avoid all the airports, federal buildings, college campuses, etc. your whole life.   Let alone not going to professional bike races in Europe, when that is your job.

Trying to not think this is the case is hard for some.  It’s not hard for me, but I’ve never experienced anything related to this in a personal sense.  It happens very rarely here in the United States, which somewhat allows us to acknowledge it, then go on with our daily activities.  If it was happening on a constant basis, then most of us would be pretty concerned.

I read somewhere that most terrorism is done by people that consider their homeland to be under siege.  That is understandable.  People who choose terrorist tactics are also persuaded that violence, or the threat of violence, is effective.  And I believe it is.  It disrupts societies function.  Whatever the reasons, it is impossible to police.

The media or the government tells us who we need to be afraid of.  Initially it was the Taliban, then al-Qaeda, now it’s ISIS.  Honestly, I don’t know the difference between these groups.  It seems I should know the difference, but I just lump all of these guys together as terrorists.  That is probably wrong way more than I know.  But, I think many of us do this.

Like I said above, I don’t think society can protect itself from terrorism.  What we need to do is to try to alleviate the causes that drive them.  When people feel like they have no other choice than to strap a bunch of explosives to themselves and blow a bunch of strangers up, then that is what they most likely will do.  It isn’t that hard of a thing to accomplish.

I don’t have any answers for this problem.  We have a bunch of people around the world pretty mad at us right now.  There are a bunch of complicated reasons for this, way too many for me to begin to understand.  But the fact that there are very unhappy people who feel that their choices are getting very limited, close to that of no choice at all, is not a good thing for us.  We should probably try to piss fewer people off.  It doesn’t work out that well for anybody involved.

Brad Huff was sleeping right here just a few hours before the airport was attacked. I bet he has been thinking about this a lot.

Brad Huff was sleeping right here just a few hours before the airport was attacked. I bet he has been thinking about this a lot.

Tucker has a real lot of toys.

Tucker has a real lot of toys.

 

Structured Lives Can be Unproductive

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I was talking to my friend Vincent yesterday for a while and he was telling me about the guy that founded Netscape, Marc Andeessen, and VIncent told me about Marc’s views to stay happy, productive and happy was to avoid structure.  The guy is very productive, he founded Netscape and now Mosaic.  He is on the board of directors of Facebook, eBay and Hewlett-Packard.

Actually, it wasn’t structure, but schedules.  He says to avoid schedules, refuse to commit to meetings or appointments at any set time in the current day.  His view is that you can work on whatever is the most important, or interesting, at any time.

The guy has lots of other ideas to stay productive.  Check email only twice a day, Structured procrastination, etc.  Here is a link to his article.

It is interesting.  I know a lot of you think that being rich and powerful allows less structure, but that isn’t my observation.  The wealthier people I know seem to have much more structure in their lives, seem to be in less control.  This guy is saying that doing what is most important at each and every moment will make you more productive.

Anyway, yesterday I went for a short ride around Topeka.  I had intended to go for a real ride, but had done a bunch of physical, plus mental stuff and was just done.  The ride woke me back up and I went back to work.  I guess the bike ride turned out to be structured procrastination.

During the ride, I rode right through one of the worst neighborhoods in Central Topeka.  It isn’t like South Chicago, but it isn’t good.  It was a close to 5, so school was out.  What surprised me what how many children were out playing.  There were kids by a small pond, a few out riding bikes, plus guys just hanging out talking.  They all seemed to be having a great time.

I also rode through a couple nice neighborhoods.  There were no kids out.  Didn’t see one. I sort of understand the reason behind this occurrence, but I don’t truly get it.

Nearly everything I did when I was a kid that was memorable was self motivated.  Self motivated and most of the time spur of the moment.  I very much doubt I would have been a bicycle racer in today’s society of supervision.  I don’t think our society is allowing this type of activity so much anymore.

Lots of people use organized sports and activities to babysit their children.  What they really need to be doing is let their children babysit each other.  That is where the great stuff begins. And these children need to be able to do this pretty autonomous for adult supervision.

I know that many of you think I’m full of shit.  I don’t have any kids, so shouldn’t be giving my views on raising kids.  But I don’t think you have to be a parent to realize our society is going a little astray in this process.

Having to line up with numbers on our cars to pick up our children at school is ridiculous.   Arresting parents for allowing their children to walk a mile home from a park is beyond ridiculous, it is terrible.  Our super parenting is ruining the adults freedom, but worse, has stifled the freedom of our children.

Yesterday was a 70 degree early March day.  Those were the days I lived for after school when I was young. I think that all the structure that our society has built into a child’s upbringing is actually bad for productivity.  And by productivity here, I mean a child’s learning process.   If our children’s lives are so structured that they can’t take advantage of a beautiful day in March, then something is wrong.

My productivity as a child was definitely best when I was unstructured.  Maybe we should trust our children more and give them a chance to find their own passions and quit trying to appease our minds by having them observed at all times? Letting kids explore is what being a kid is all about.

You don't see this much anymore. I did this all the time. Would sit at the top of a fence with my friends and talk about our thoughts and dreams.

You don’t see this much anymore. I did this all the time. Would sit at the top of a fence , or in a tree, with my friends and talk about our thoughts and dreams.  I haven’t seen a kid in a tree forever.

Tucker is still waiting and checking up on us out in the woods. I doubt that will last much longer.

Tucker is still waiting and checking up on us out in the woods. I doubt that will last much longer.

 

Ineptitude and Fees

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When I took Bill to the VA hospital, after he crashed during the last criterium during the Tour of Kansas City, what surprised me the most was how reasonable they were with just about everything.  They had a lot of rules in place, mainly because they had an emergency room that didn’t accept ambulances or trauma patients.  Bill wasn’t in the VA system at that point, but everyone there understood the situation and bent the rules enough to do what was right.  It was refreshing that people can be self-thinking and do what is right.

When I crashed in Asheville, I went to a walk-in orthopedic place.  For some reason, I didn’t have my insurance card on me and they said they couldn’t see me without a picture of the front and back of my insurance card.  I called Trudi to look in my wallet at the hotel, called my insurance agent, even called the insurance company itself, but no luck.  I finally asked them if I could just pay for the visit and they said sure.  Seems like they would have suggested that initially.

Anyway, the help was super, the doctor and x-ray technicians first-rate.  My credit card was charge $300 to go in and they said they would add or refund the difference after I was done.  I came out with the coded paper and told them I thought I owed them some money.  The receptionist added it up and said that it was $250.60, so she was going to refund $49.40 to my credit card.  I thought that was a deal.

Yesterday I got a bill in the mail for an extra $125.  It looks like it was for the removable cast I have.  That was the only thing that added up to $125.  Anyway, I didn’t feel that was fair.  I paid the full bill at the clinic and didn’t expect another bill, so I called them.

There are a ton of people there that deal with the billing.  My last name begins with a T, so I had to push #7 on my phone.  The lady I talked to say that they must have not added the cast to the billing until after I left and that I owed the money.  I told her that I can’t think of another part of society where you can leave a business after paying in full, then get a bill for more and be expected to pay it.  She agreed that she couldn’t either, but that is how the medical system works.  I disagreed.

I realized that we weren’t going to get anywhere, so I asked her if she had a supervisor and she said she would transfer me.  I had to explain the whole scenario again.  She seemed mixed up whether I had received the cast.  I told her it was on my arm.  So, she asked, what is the problem.

I told her the problem was rebilling me after I’d paid in full.  I used an example if I went in and bought a new car for $20K, paid for it and then three weeks later got a bill for another $10K saying they forgot to add-on the price of engine or something.  And that was the right percentage.  They had billed me another 50% of the amount I paid.  I told her the billing error was their issue and not mine.

Eventually she asked me what I wanted.  I told he I didn’t think I owed the money and that I wanted the bill to disappear.  She abruptly said yes and asked me if I “needed” anything else.  I thanked her and hung up.

I was super surprised that it was resolved so quickly.  It had seemed like it was going the wrong way most of the conversation.

Switch situations, Trudi noticed that she had a $3 charge on her bank statement for statement costs.  I wrote a post about bank charges back in October, about them planning to charge $15 a month for less than 5K in my account.  Anyway, I went to the bank and switched my account to a no fee checking account.

So, I go and look at my statement and there are two $3 charges for December and January.  So, Trudi calls the bank and the woman there explains it is not a fee, but a charge for the printed statement and envelope.  Trudi isn’t too confrontational, so she hung up and then ranted.

The weird thing is right on my statement, the bank uses the wording of fee.   Check out the picture below.  Printed statement fee.  It seems like when I signed up for a no fee checking account that there wouldn’t be any fees.  I guess there is something in the small print that says if you want to actually receive a statement from them about your transactions, that is going to cost you money.

I don’t know how they picked  $3.  Maybe it was the number they thought that people would just accept it and they could reap the profit.  Multiple that $3 by the 100’s of thousand of customers they have and it adds up to a nice tidy sum.  That is every month.   The woman told Trudi that all the banks are doing this, so good luck on finding one that doesn’t.   I’m wondering if eventually they are going to add-on an electricity usage fee or maybe a bought a new copy machine fee, etc.

I’m sick of this nickel and diming always.  It seems devious.  And one of the last things you want from the place you keep your money is dishonesty.  I guess banks don’t really care whether you like them or not anymore.  We used to be able to shop with our feet, but after we tie our bank accounts to auto-pay for so many other bills, it becomes a real ordeal trying to switch banks. And they know that.

I’m wondering when real service is going to return to society.  I’ve never had a bank charge removed from my account.  Vincent banks at the same bank had he said they do it all the time for him.  The only explanation can be whether they want his business more than mine.  I think they do.  I’m going to try to get my $6 back, plus Trudi’s, but realize it is a waste of time, but it is the principal.

This is happening to all of us from all sides.  Our cell phone bills getting small charges continually added, our cable bills, every bill seems socomplicated, thus easier to hide these charges that even the employees of the businesses think are ridiculous and dishonest.

I think that eventually this has to swing back to when I was young and people prided themselves by providing great service.  That people will be reasonable when there are “rules” in place, but know that they are unreasonable.   What happened to the saying, “The customer is always right”?  I’m not saying that should always be the case, but if that is the starting point of the relationship, then I believe that both the customer and businesses will be happier with each other.

 

 

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