Why would someone hit my car in a parking lot and not leave a note?

I should have heeded the turned front wheels of the vehicle I parked next to when I pulled into the breakfast restaurant a couple of days ago. The only thing I remember is it was a white SUV type vehicle. Yesterday, after I backed my car out of the garage to get a ladder down, I noticed a small dent and white paint scratches on the  front right part of my car, made by a vehicle that was taller than mine. My speculation is my fellow breakfast patron (and it would have been a man, as I did not notice any female patrons in the uncrowded restaurant), backed out in a hurry and did not realize his wheels were turned and kissed my car with his left front.

The dent is not too bad, but is noticeable. Yet, what annoys me more is that there was no note and no one reentered the restaurant with a mea culpa. No one walked in and declared “who is the owner of the…….?”  It annoys me as someone decided that it was easier to just slink away. It annoys me someone would wrong another human being and not take responsibility. It annoys me how someone could be unaccountable. Of course, it would have taken more time out of both our days. Yet, it would have only been a trading of insurance cards and information. Now, I will be out my deductible to get the dent repaired.

Folks, I am far from perfect and make mistakes. We all do. I do my best to own up to them. That is what being accountable and responsible looks like. “I screwed up. I am sorry. Here is my insurance information. Please let me know if there are any problems.” This is what we owe each other. My hypothesis is the person got on his mobile phone when he jumped in the car (or before), started backing out, hit me, said “oh s–t”, looked around, corrected the car and drove on.

It should not be this hard. I wrote a post a few months back about a University of Toronto and University of California at Berkeley study on the impact of higher net worth and cheating. Here is a link:  https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/the-psychology-of-wealth-can-make-you-less-compassionate/. Through numerous measures, the study indicated a higher propensity to cheat if the person had a higher  income relative to others. The statistics revealed a 2 to 1 (and as much as 4 to 1 on same tests) higher propensity to cheat for high income individuals than those who had less. I am not saying the person who hit my car had high income. I don’t know. To me this is less relevant than the fact that people do cheat, even on unimportant things and for not significant financial gains. The loss here would have been time and maybe an increase in rating on insurance for the next year. The insurance company would have handled the rest.

I recognize this post won’t change someone’s stripes. I just ask that for those who do read this we encourage everyone to try to do the right thing. And, I when I do the right thing, I universally feel better about myself as I did what others expect of me. That is all we can ask – let’s be accountable and responsible to each other.

Climate change and your money – a reprise

My friend Hugh Curtler, of the Daily Gadfly, has written an excellent post on the need to face up to the issues caused by global warming and highlighting “The High Costs of Ignorance.” A link to this excellent post is provided below and it is well worth the read. Hugh also attracts a good group of commenters, so I encourage you to spend some time with their reactions and his additional comments.

http://hughcurtler.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/the-high-costs-of-ignorance/

Last year, I wrote a post based on a survey prepared by Mercer Investment Consulting, one of the largest investment consultants in the world. This survey was from 2011 and solicited the thoughts of the Directors of the largest pension scheme trust funds in the world on the subject of the cost of climate change. This survey was conducted before Hurricane Sandy and before the many wildfires which have occurred in our country the past twenty-one months. A link to this post is below.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/climate-change-and-your-money/

As the United Nations climate scientists noted last month, climate change is here and they are 95% certain it is man-influenced. We are behind in our plans to act. We must move forward in a concerted way. Good things have happened, but they are more a confederation of efforts. California leads our efforts in solar energy. Texas leads our efforts in wind energy. Yet, we need to have a concerted plan which accelerates the move toward alternative energies like these and other sources (wave, river current, water, biomass and geothermal energy, as well as conservation, a major source).

If you find yourself with someone naysaying climate change, you need only say, we need to join the rest of the world in addressing this issue. We have done some nice things here, but we need to do much, much more and in an orchestrated fashion. The cost of not doing anything is a very high cost if ignorance which will be paid as we repair damage that could have been prevented or diffused.

Affordable Care Act Exchanges and Rollout

As a benefits consultant and former manager of benefits for a multi-state corporation, let me state the obvious, the rollout of the www.healthcare.gov website could definitely have been handled better and needs to further improve. On Friday, I browsed the website which is handling enrollment for 36 states and found it to be very informative and helpful. Yet, I did not attempt to set up an account, which is where the rubber needs to hit the road. My ability to browse on Friday was not permitted when it launched on October 1, as a late decision was made to require the set up of an account first to activate the subsidies engine when looking at premium rate information. The administrators have since changed that decision which will allow people like me to look around before we set up an account to purchase coverage.

Let me make three major points as we look forward and backwards. First, the enrollment process is only one of five key pressure points in the execution of coverage. Once you have enrolled, the next pressure point is for the system to pass your information to the insurance carrier you have selected for coverage. That will likely occur in multiple feeds, so it is incumbent on the carrier not to process duplicate records. Plus, for late enrollees who want coverage January 1, there is only fifteen days for a final true up file between the system and carriers.

This enrollment file is vital to making sure coverage begins. So, the third key pressure point is getting enrollment ID cards to verify coverage. When I think of this process, I recall the time one healthcare vendor for my company sent some enrollees six ID cards, some three and some zero. Apparently, the ID printer kept stalling and the system started printing from the start.

The fourth pressure point is when the billing process starts, which actually will occur after the effective date of coverage for many. Will the subsidies be properly applied and will the premiums be properly invoiced each month? In the corporate world, the first pay period when premium deductions are made in January is when people realize they may have signed up for the wrong plan.

The fifth and major pressure point is when a person goes to the doctor in early January. Do they have coverage? This is what is known as the point of reckoning. In my job as manager of benefits, you did not want to get a call from an employee or spouse of an employee whose doctor is seeing coverage denied on the system. So, fixing the website is important, but the administrators and insurance carriers need to make sure they get these other parts right as well.

Second, I want to state the obvious that Obamacare is designed to get insurance coverage to people who did not have access. In the finger-pointing and misinformation campaign, we lose sight of the fact that almost fifty million people do not have access to health coverage. Those with coverage pay for these uninsured now through pass through costs and taxes to support county and federal subsidies. Yet, those without insurance are using the system at the worst time and place – when a medical issue is critical and at the emergency room which is a very expensive place. Getting people access to coverage beforehand will permit a better cost and utilization model for all concerned. And, preventive care will be introduced to help avoid medical issues to worsen.

Already through the earlier implemented items under Obamacare, adult children under 26 not in college can stay on a parent’s plan (this has added over 3 million enrollees), pre-existing condition restrictions are waived for children (and will be waived for all January 1), lifetime limits on medical costs have been lifted, the Medicare prescription drug benefits have been improved and insurance company profits are limited on premiums (which has caused refunds to some premium payers the last two summers). These features are well received and the further elimination of the pre-existing condition restrictions and better mental health benefits are significant changes coming January 1.

Third and final, looking backwards two major stakeholders could have done better. The President’s team should have started earlier and involved more quarterbacking of various efforts. Plus, decisions on the design of the website and supporting call center should have been put to bed months before to permit detailed User Acceptance Testing. If you ask AonHewitt, Mercer, TowersWatson, etc., they each want their clients to put to bed plan design changes and premium rates by early August when they go into the October enrollment cycle for their clients – and this is with a fully designed system. So, the fact someone made decisions late to the design of a very complicated system was a poor move and should have been disallowed.

The other group which should not be overlooked is the role Republicans played in this whole process to make a hard thing harder. They should not be too smug, as when you do the following:

– fight the constitutionality of a law designed to help people (using a structure that is largely a GOP idea no less) through the spring, 2012;

– this fight delayed efforts by many states to set up their own exchanges, which would have made the process less complicated as exhibited by some states having few glitches thus far;

– the Republican led states who decided not to expand Medicaid to defeat Obamacare, which is and was a win-win decision for the people in need, hospitals and the state economies, made it a mixed bag of offerings to administer and communicate; and

– the constant fight to defund, disinform, and dissuade people from using and understanding the new law has done a law designed to help people a huge disservice;

the implementation is made harder. So, to sit back and point fingers as to why did you allow this to happen and see I told you so, does not sit very well with this Independent voter. To me constructive questions on how to make it better and get people enrolled are fair game. I go back to a comment I made in an earlier post – in his twenty-one hours of filibustering, Senator Ted Cruz failed to mention that his state of Texas was dead last out of fifty states and Puerto Rico, by having the most uninsured people in the US. So, my question to him and others is why don’t you support Obamacare and why doesn’t your state expand Medicaid to help those in need? Those uninsureds are citizens of Texas, too.

So, I hope this can get fixed. I think it will get fixed, but the question is when. If it does not or if it takes too long, then it is truly unfortunate as people will get hurt. The political chess game may turn against the new law and the real losers will be those pawns I keep fighting for who need healthcare coverage. They cannot get coverage because of access, cost and pre-existing conditions. There are almost 50 million of these pawns and include Republicans, Libertarians, Democrats and Independents. They will be helped by the Affordable Care Act. Let’s see it through.

Welcome to America – I hope you are packing heat

I have written several posts about our excessive gun violence in America. We lead the world by far in gun deaths and children gun deaths. Yet, we continue to do nothing about it. We have a parade of children led shootings at schools the past few weeks, yet we continue to do nothing about it. Pick up any US newspaper anywhere in the country and count the number of gun death or violence stories. I wrote a post about Googling a “six-year-old kills four-year-old” and counting the number of stories that pop up. Yet, we still do nothing about it. We have mass shootings, which are horrific tragedies, but dwarfed by the daily killings of kids, yet we still do nothing about it. And, Americans by virtue of reputable surveys, clearly want better background checks and more elongated waiting periods, yet we still do nothing about it.

Here are a few links to these previous posts.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/please-check-out-elon-university-poll-on-gun-control/

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/another-gun-death-in-america-x-year-old-kills-z-year-old/

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/another-day-in-america-16-year-old-kills-13-year-old-friend/

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/how-do-you-know-who-the-good-guys-are/

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/if-i-were-a-groundhog-in-the-us/

I am thinking of the person who finally asked Senator Joe McCarthy during his communist witch hunt trials, “Senator, have you no shame?” That was actually the beginning of the end for McCarthy. I fully recognize the complexity of what is causing gun deaths, but the NRA and strident gun amassers would like you to believe that guns have little to do with gun deaths. Responsible gun owners know this not to be the case, which is why they take great pains to teach their use and put them away for safekeeping. So, using the McCarthy line above, “NRA, have you no shame?”

We are well past the time to act on these issues. It is a poverty issue, it is mental health issue, it is a lack of civil discourse issue, it is a violence in entertainment issue, but make no mistake about it, it is an access to guns issue. Without access to a weapon, the child does not kill his sibling or cousin. Without access to a weapon, the depressed teenager, college student or adult does not act on an impulse and end a life. Without access to a weapon a drunken patron at a bar or ball game does not go to his car and come back guns a blazing because they were offended.

NRA, have you no shame? You could have acted responsibly like the majority of gun owners, yet you decided to fan the flames of a fervent crowd and crow about Second Amendment rights, which I still have not seen anyone threaten. You have also usurped the leadership of the GOP and taken them down a darker path along with some other fervent misconceptions. As a result, we cannot have the long overdue civil, appropriate debate about this topic looking at all issues, including what Americans, even Republicans want by far – better background checks and elongated waiting periods. We should do more than that, but those two issues are no brainers and largely popular.

It is past time. NRA, have you no shame? NRA, stand down. We need to have a better conversation without your involvement, as you violated the trust of Americans and responsible gun owners, whom you no longer represent.

Because your lips are moving

The above is the punchline to the old joke “How can you tell if a politician is lying?” Like most everyone, one of the things I do not like is being lied to. What makes it worse is when I know you are lying to me. My wife and I were commenting last night about a news reporter interviewing an average citizen who made a candid remark that is the painful truth. In this case, an ex-resident of Fukushima in Japan was commenting on when the government said it was OK to move back once they cleaned up the nuclear reactor spill. His comment through an interpreter was “OK, then you move back then.”

In the spirit of the average citizen, let me note a few items I have come across lately in my reading or watching of the news (in no particular order) that give me pause.

  • When a company or government says something is “perfectly safe,” do not believe them. They are lying. The only thing perfectly safe is the prediction that you will die someday. So, when Monsanto says its pesticides are perfectly safe, Halliburton says its fracking processes are perfectly safe or a utility says our nuclear reactors are perfectly safe, do not believe them. The only truthful statement they could make is “we are doing our best to make the process as safe as possible.”
  • When the President says he is going to be transparent about drones and NSA issues when he has not had the most transparent of administrations, do not believe him. This disappoints me about the President whom I like for the most part. In many respects, the terrorists have already won, as the US reputation is tainted with these issues designed to make us safer, but make us look like Big Brother.
  • When Republicans say I care about jobs, jobs, jobs, then do nothing but stand in the way of their creation, this gives me pause. In North Carolina, our jobs bill was to give rich people a tax break and cut federal unemployment. Companies are sitting on cash as they don’t know what to do with it, so giving rich people more is not going to “trickle down” as hoped, an economic policy that has been proven not to work in numerous studies.
  • When Republicans say how much they hate Obamacare, which is imperfect, complex and has been rolled out poorly, yet moves the ball forward to cover more people in a huge way, I am frustrated by the misinformation tactics and lack of acknowledgment that it is largely a GOP idea. The parts in play already are well received and the new parts will actually be helpful to the economy, so says the CBO. If the remaining states join Ohio (who announced this week) to expand Medicaid, it will be even better for those in need and their states’ economies.
  • When states like North Carolina pass restrictive Voter ID laws which contain several features that are designed to suppress votes, then say that is not their intent, they are lying. NC is being sued by three different sources, the state Attorney General said the law was unconstitutional before passed and the General Assembly had data that showed as much. They are attempting to solve the wrong problem – we don’t have a rampant voter fraud problem; the problem is we don’t have rampant voting.

These are a few odds and ends for your reading pleasure. I would welcome your comments and other examples. Let me leave you with a quote from an old friend – “always tell the truth as you don’t have to remember as much.”

Sisters of the Eleventh Hour and Mother Antonia

I am moved by a story I read today written by Matt Schudel of the Washington Post entitled “Mother Antonia, 86, lived in, transformed Mexican prison.” Mother Antonia, who was born Mary Clarke in the US, died on October 17 after a later-in-life mission where she served others in need and created a group called the “Sisters of the Eleventh Hour of St. John Etudes.” I love this story and adore the name she chose to help people using the metaphor as the clock nears midnight. The symbolism of the name matches the work she has done for the last 48 years of her life.

After accompanying a priest to deliver medicine and supplies to Tijuana, Mexico in 1965, she visited a prison and  was moved by the plight and maltreatment of the men behind bars. With no one advocating for them, she frequented the prison more and then moved down to Tijuana to “tend to the needs of some of the most destitute and dangerous people in Mexico. She brought them medicine, bedding, clothing and food. She worked with Mexican officials to improve conditions in La Mesa and other prisons.” She was a light to these men and she would kiss their hands and they would return the favor. She was held in such high regard, she diffused a prison riot with guns in 1994 by walking up to the rioters and asking them for their weapons.

What is also interesting about her life is she was married twice, had seven children and died with 11 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren and 2 great, great-grandchildren. She took care of her father’s business after he died, but was devoted to helping others. After her prison ministry began, she made herself into a nun and went about helping these men in need. She had no formal training and made her own nun’s habit. She wore a cross made by the inmates, which also contained a Star of David in the center, “symbolic of her father’s respect for Jewish people and her own sense of open-armed acceptance.” She lived her life in a 10 by 10 foot cell with the walls painted pink. There is a book on her life called “The Prison Angel” by Washington Post journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, which was made into a documentary film.

The way I see it is she just wanted to help those in need and help she did. Both popes and government leaders have celebrated her work. I find her mission very refreshing, especially with Pope Francis trying to restore the Catholic Church to its greater mission of helping those in need. One of my heroes is Mother Teresa, who also cared more about helping others. Mother Antonia is someone of the same cloth. Through her life, we can see how we should aspire to be. The new pope lived this mission as well and is trying to get others to see the importance of the overarching teaching of Jesus to help the “least of these.”

So, please help me celebrate the life of this new-found hero (at least to me). Thank you Mother Antonia for what you did and the mission you created and left us with.

Crisis averted, but we cannot get complacent and must act

Thank goodness more rational heads prevailed this past week and we listened to what our global financial partners were telling us. I was not counting the chickens until they were all hatched. Here are few remarks from around the globe that we need to remind folks of courtesy of NBC News online.

International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde welcomed the deal but said the shaky American economy needs more stable long-term finances. The deal only permits the Treasury to borrow normally through February 7 and fund the government through January 15.

After the deal was approved and signed, the Tokyo stock market, the region’s heavyweight, gained as much as 1.1 percent Thursday. Markets in South Korea, Australia and Southeast Asia also gained. Earlier, China’s official Xinhua News Agency had accused Washington of jeopardizing other countries’ dollar-denominated assets. It called for “building a de-Americanized world,” though analysts say global financial markets have few alternatives to the dollar for trading and U.S. government debt for holding reserves.

In Israel, a key American ally in the Middle East, commentators said the fight hurt America’s overall image. “There is no doubt that damage was done here to the image of American economic stability,” Israel’s economic envoy to Washington, Eli Groner, told Israel’s Army Radio. “It’s not good for the financial markets, not in the United States and not around the world.”

The next time someone brings up that it would have been OK not to pay our bills, ask them if they truly understand what they are advocating with folks around the world saying the above. And, just to illustrate this point further, Brazil had some major building initiatives around their growth, Olympics, etc. and they looked to financing from China, Dubai and other non-American sources, so don’t think the world does not notice our dysfunction. With that said, we do need to deal with our deficit (and debt issues) and hopefully the December 13 report by the bi-partisan committee will be fruitful.

In May, 2012, I wrote the following post regarding the Tea Party’s efforts. While I support their push for dealing with the deficit, they are not being very good stewards with the faith some have entrusted in them. In addition to their uncompromising positions and trust in dubious sources of information and history, they are also taking a key lever off the table that we must use to get our deficit under control. In addition to reducing spending, we must increase revenue. It is not an either or issue – it is both as recommended by the Simpson-Bowles (or Bowles-Simpson) Deficit Reduction Committee.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/what-kind-of-tea-is-the-tea-party-drinking/

So, Congressional leaders, you have until December 13 to come up with a plan. That plan cannot include holding the debt ceiling hostage or shutting down the government. Please remember, our stability is a rock on which the global economy is based. Please heed the words by the Chinese official above. If we can no longer be that rock, the world will find another one. Innovation is portable as is money. People are investing and will invest elsewhere if we don’t get our act together.