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A Matter Of Opinion

Archive for August 2009

The vicious economic cycle

A recent article notes that it will be difficult for the economy to sustain a recovery if people continue to get laid off, furloughed and save money, rather than spend it. Of course, they’re saving the money out of uncertainty over their futures.

A WSJ article notes that up to 70 percent of business owners/managers are considering more layoffs and furloughs to help with their bottom lines until the economy rebounds. Of course, this will impede the recovery for the aforementioned reason.

“Consumers just don’t have the financial firepower to go out and spend more,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s “Unless businesses curtail their job cuts, the recovery could very well peter out.”

Anyone see a way out?


Monday’s Loose Thread

“The only thing new in this world is the history that you don’t know”Harry S Truman

What’s on your mind today?

Glenn Beck and spellcheck

Pay-off at the 50-second mark of this clip.

The Health Care thread

Since the health care debate is approaching the importance of Obama’s birth certificate, thought I’d give it its own thread, so we can keep the debate in one place.

I’ll kick it off with this:

People scoff at the possible savings with Medicare. Too hard! Have to get between the patient and the doctor! We’ll need Health Nannies!

Actually, we just need the high-cost regions to act like lower-cost regions. The result. No diminuntion in quality and big, big savings. Once Medicare did it, the insurance companies would want to follow suit. They’d certainly have the financial incentive to do so. Can’t keep passng the costs of unneeded care on to patients forever, right?

Now, I know about defensive medicine, but that’s practiced everywhere. It doesn’t explain the wide disparities. In fact, Texas enacted tort reform with hard caps ($250k max for noneconomic damages). Lawsuits plunged. But HC policies and malpractice insurance continue to climb. McAllen is the second spendiest place in the country. Guess tort reform didn’t solve that defensive medicine issue.

Check this out::

According to the study, doctors in the high spending areas were much more likely to recommend expensive and discretionary services, such as non-critical hospital admissions, referrals to sub-specialists, and more diagnostic tests. But the study also concluded that all this extra medical care did NOT result in any greater survival rate.  It just cost more money.  To find out what the Medicare reimbursement rates are in your area,   click here for an interactive map of the United States.

Atual Gawande of the New Yorker interviewed doctors in McAllen.  They even admitted the problem was over-utilization.  That’s a fancy word for ordering unneeded tests.  Gawande came to the conclusion that about 15 years ago, a few McAllen leaders took profit growth to be perfectly acceptable in the practice of medicine.  He writes “a medical community came to treat patients the way subprime-mortgage lenders treated home buyers: as profit centers”

Here’s the real kicker!  According to the Dartmouth study, at current spending rates the Medicare balance sheet will be $660 billion dollars in the red by 2023.  But if we just contained costs like Hawaii and San Francisco (yes San Francisco!) in the year 2023 Medicare would be in the black $758 billion.




Friday’s Loose Thread

It was the best of weeks; it was the worst of weeks.

Comment here.

Thursday’s Loose Thread

First day of school. You’d think the third-grader had NEVER been to school.




Wednesday’s Loose Thread

Sen. Kennedy dies at 77. Thoughts on his career and controversies?

Thoughts on anything else?

Tuesday’s Loose Thread

Back to school. Salvation Army supplies drained. Cost about $70 to buy supplies for my third-grader. I don’t recall this school supply frenzy when I was a kid.

Thoughts on yet another lovely day?


Monday’s Loose Thread

It was kind of everyone to solve all the world’s problems while I was on vacation. Probably not much to talk about now.

But if there is, this is the place.


Friday’s loose thread

It’s Friday. Here’s your chance to launch a conversation that will develop enough momentum to roll right through the weekend.  Give it your best shot.

What is insurance for?

I just read a list serve comment by a woman who had an insurance issue over the cost of her son’s physical exam for high school football. The details aren’t important.

My question is as follows:

Hypothetically, an insurance policy provides one free physical exam every year.  The cost is spread out among all the policy holders, all of whom are entitled to one physical every year.

They won’t all avail themselves of that, but if they did, the insurer would theoretically pay out the same as it collected in premiums, less copays or deductibles, wherein it would realize a profit. Since many people won’t take the physicals, the profit will go up…and maybe the premiums would even be adjusted downward slightly once the state insurance commissioner weighed in.

Still, individual policy holders would, at worst, break even if they just paid for the physical out of pocket. Then might even save money by removing the insurance company profit from the calculation.

So why are such routine and predictable things part of a health insurance policy? Shouldn’t insurance be to spread the risk around over things that can’t be anticipated, like being attacked by a Grizzly? 

Thursday’s loose thread

While you’re booting up your blog energy, here’s a tidbit reported in the current issue of State Legislatures magazine.

Between 1976 and 2007 (apparently the latest figures available), lawyers’ representation in state legislatures around the country declined from 22.3 percent to 15.2 percent, causing them to drop into second place.

The new kingpins are full-time legislators — 2.7 percent in 1976 and 16.4 percent now. Third place, if you’re interested, is retirees, who didn’t even register on the 1976 tabulation but now are 11.7 percent.

At 9.2 percent, business owners are fourth, but their moon is waning. Back in 1976, they ranked second behind lawyers at 15.8 percent.

Surely you can come up with something to talk about that doesn’t involve percentages and statistical trends.  Or can you?

Wednesday’s loose thread

Any surprises from yesterday’s voting?

Maybe that’s the inspiration you’re looking for to comment on today’s loose thread.

Or maybe you want to comment on the fact a drivable segment of the North Spokane Corridor will open this weekend.

Or maybe you have topics of your own to raise. That’s what the loose thread is all about, after all.

Post away.

Tuesday’s loose thread

We said it yesterday, and we’re repeating it today.  It’s election day in Washington. Vote.


This public service announcement is brought to you by A Matter of Opinion.


Now, what has you fired up today?

Power up? Power down?

The Washington state Attorney General’s Office announced today that its public counsel section has decided to challenge the 18 percent rate hike that Avista Utilities has asked from the state Utilities and Transportation Commission.

Not only that, if all the counsel’s recommendations were adopted by the UTC, it would result in a reduction for Avista.

That’s the essence of the announcement, although it goes into a lot more detail.  I’m comfortable predicting this action will be popular in Spokane, but here’s a chance to weigh in on the topic, regardless of which side your favor.

Monday’s loose thread

No point in waiting (and then forgetting as I did last week). Here’s a loose thread invite to get your week going at A Matter of Opinion. 

I commend your attention to the previous post about voting in tomorrow’s election, but here’s your chance to open other topics for discussion.

Changing world of elections

Tomorrow is primary election day in Washington, and our editorial will encourage those who haven’t yet voted to be sure to do so. That used to be a standard election day offering, until mail-in voting became standard. Now, because many voters mark and return their ballots right after receiving them a couple of weeks before election day, the last-minute reminder seems somewhat archaic.

How many people besides me wait until the official deadline, Tuesday, to hand in their ballot? Why or why not? 

Friday’s loose thread

Finally…Friday. The weekend beckons. Oh, that’s just the lawnmower.

So here’s your chance to tie up any loose ends — make that loose threads — left over from the week.

Thursday’s loose thread

I have to say I’m a wee bit disappointed at the lack of response to the video clip posted earlier.  You have know idea what a technological leap that bit of learning represented for this 1950s luddite.

OK, enough about me.  What are you thinking?

Fascinating take on the information age

For those who, like me,  still don’t quite know how to relate to the social network technology, John Foster, an advisor and communications director for Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick, has posted this short clip on You Tube and Facebook.  It’s a tad salty, but if that doesn’t bother you it’s well worth your time.

Wednesday’s loose thread

In the past month, I’ve been to Okalahoma City, where they were having irregularly heavy but probably needed rain; Philadelphia, where a thunderous downpour washed out bridges, caused power outages, closed major highways and temporarily shut down the airport; and now Spokane with more rain (my lawn says thanks) and mid-August temperatures in the low 70s (to the relief of my Avista bill).

One begins to wonder, is it me?

What are you wondering about today?

OMG…Vacation’s over

Can’t believe I let Monday slip by without posting at least a loose thread offering.

But I did.

Here’s one for Tuesday, so release your pent-up passion.

Friday’s Loose Thread

“The ant is knowing and wise, but he doesn’t know enough to take a vacation” — Clarence Day

Sonia is in, so is Mobius

flu shots loom, not matter how odious

Rescue this thread with thoughts from your head

Thursday’s Loose Thread

William Jefferson Clinton’s foreign dash.William Jefferson’s cold cash.Or you can pick something else to praise or bash.

Wednesday’s Loose Thread

Let’s hear it!

Tuesday’s Loose Thread

Would a Cash for Clunkers program work here? Trade in your tired, worn arguments for brand new ones? What would it take to get you into a new mindset today?

Hurry! Offer ends at 8:26 am.



Monday’s Loose Thread

Thoughts on this first day of another hot week?


Public salaries

Did you see this story about CdA balking at putting names to public salaries? Well, there’s a guy named Bloom who has done this extensively in Washington state, much to the consternation of many public workers. His extensive database is here.

Thoughts on publishing the salaries of public employees?





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