Mr. President, if climate change is not real, then why are you deleting data?

Prominent climate scientists are concerned as research papers and supporting data are disappearing in the halls (and websites) of our US governmental agencies. It is to the point that several cited links in professional publications are no longer valid and the authors are scrambling to defend their work. As feared, there appears to be concerted efforts to delete climate change information off important government websites.

So, my question is simple, “Mr. President, if climate change is not real, then why are you deleting data that supports it exists and is man-influenced?” To me, this is a legitimate question to ask the President, Scott Pruitt, his EPA Secretary or Sean Spicer, his White House press agent. I would not let him escape without an answer. To me, this is telling. The President’s argument is so poor, it cannot stand up to scrutiny and he must destroy the evidence.

It is not dissimilar to when President George W. Bush’s White House Council for the Environment was having scientific papers rewritten or redacted if the words “climate change” or “global warming” appeared therein. It is akin to Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida who forbade their state officials from mentioning climate change or global warming in speeches or official papers. With Florida surrounded on three sides by sea water, that is not the best stewardship for his state not to mention country or planet.

Yet, there is another key facet. The US is a leader in climate change research with NASA, NOAA and EPA, to name a few agencies. We are not only harming our planet by stepping away and deleting papers and research, we are giving away a leadership position. This is not how you make America great again, for whatever that means, and is certainly not how you conduct yourself as a world leader.

So, Mr. President, what is the answer to my question?

 

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How do employees feel when their leaders let them down?

Organizations are blessed by having hard-working employees who take pride in their work. I recognize not everyone fits this bill, but hopefully an organization has more of those that do than not. Yet, what becomes problematic for these earnest employees is when their leaders let them down.

I am thinking of the hard-working Wells Fargo employees who day in, day out help their customers, who saw leadership create a culture of cross-selling that led to some illegal behaviors. And, when honest employees shared their concern, they were admonished or let go.

i am thinking of the hard-working employees of energy company Enron whose leaders pursued aggressive and fraudulent accounting approaches with various code names to hide profits and dress up earnings. They also told their employees not to sell Enron stock when they knew the price was artificially propped up.

I am thinking of the hard-working folks of Arthur Andersen, who watched client leaders for their Enron accounting team help Enron’s leaders mask inappropriate activities and not catch others. These leaders brought down an accounting firm with an excellent reputation.

I am thinking of the hard-working employees of Duke Energy whose leaders have been less than forthcoming about a significant breach in a retired plant coal ash site knowing for years a problem existed and not moving quickly enough on some current ash sites where seepage into neighborhood water systems were a concern. Duke’s employees were incredulous by these actions.

I am thinking of the hard-working employees of Marsh and McClennan Companies whose leaders set-up and turned a blind eye to a small part of the company that was steering business and not operating in the best interests of the clients. They paid a huge fine and leaders were asked to leave.

These hard-working employees deserve good, honest leadership. The loss in stock price and jobs wear on them, but also the deflated pride in their companies. I worked for a subsidiary of Marsh and McClennan and it embarrassed and upset me that our leadership would do what they did and not address the problem when it was raised. Plus, being a stock holder through a 401(k) plan, stock purchase plan and some options, I was hurt financially as were folks who also lost their jobs due to the resulting downturn. I knew innocent folks who were asked to leave because of downsizing due to the impact of the malfeasance of this small group.

We need our leaders to be strategic and cognizant of issues, but we also need them to be honest and supportive of their employees. When problems arise, they need to be swift and contrite in addressing the issues.  Johnson and Johnson quickly addressed a Tylenol tampering incident many years ago when a nefarious person was removing lids and poisoning the pills. They did what they had to do to weather the storm.

From reading and watching news, apparently more than a few hard-working federal employees are not taking much pride in their new boss. That is unfortunate as they deserve more. So do we, with all of our leaders.

Puzzled about the ACA – take this quick quiz

Now that the AHCA effort by the President and Republican majority has fizzled, it would be appropriate to step away from the rhetoric and ask a few questions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I would also suggest you may not want to listen only to politicians on this as I have learned the health care awareness of politicians is not as high as we need it to be and some are more interested in optics than impact.

The questions and answers have been provided by a retired benefits actuary, consultant and manager for a Fortune 500 company.

Question 1: The ACA is: (a) undergoing a death spiral, (b) a disaster and will implode, (c) doing well in a number of places, but needs help in a few others.

Question 2: The reasons for rising costs under the ACA are: (a) adverse selection where more bad risks are signing up than good risks, (b) Congress refusing to fully fund insurers as promised for this adverse selection, (c) increased demand of services due to our aging and more obese country and pent-up demand, (d) over-prescribed medicine and tests due to profit-induced incentives, (e) all of the above.

Question 3: In its report of the initial and refined draft of the ill-fated AHCA bill, the Congressional Budget Office noted the number of un-insureds under this bill if passed would: (a) increase by 14 million in 2018, (b) increase by 24 million by 2026, (c) both (a) and (b).

Question 4: Medicaid expansion to cover individuals who earn less than 138% of the poverty level is a key part of the ACA. What do we know about the Medicaid expansion effort: (a) 31 states elected to do so, (b) states that did so received federal funding that started at 100% and will phase down to 90%, (c) per a study by George Washington University, the states that expanded Medicaid have more insureds, better performing economies and more secure hospitals, especially rural ones who had a high percentage of indigent (unpaid for) care, (d) the states who expanded Medicaid are witnessing a decline in personal bankruptcy rates and an increase in hospital accounts receivable rates (e) all of the above.

Question 5: The ACA added which of the following improvements to insurance coverage under the employer and the ACA marketplaces (a) guaranteed issue and renewability of insurance, (b) eliminated life time limits on coverage, (c) extended eligibility to adult children not going to college up to age 26 on their parent plans, (d) provided subsidies to purchase coverage up to 4 times the poverty level based on family size and income, (e) all of the above.

Question 6: What are reasonable considerations to improve the ACA? (a) better fund the promised adverse selection protection to stabilize premiums for insurers, (b) offer to reimburse insurers who left the marketplace for unpaid adverse selection protection as promised under the law to woo them back, (c) offer a public option (such as Medicare) in some places with no competition, (d) encourage the expansion of Medicaid in the remaining 19 states, (e) stop the unproductive naysaying and think of the impact on people not the politics, (f) all of the above.

In my view as a benefits professional who follows these issues, the answers to each of these questions is the last choice provided. I have grown weary of politicians playing with people’s lives. We are owed the truth. Overall, this law is working reasonably well, but needs improvements, especially where insurers have left markets leaving one choice. The framework is there, but the improvements noted in Question 6 are reasonable changes.

One final thought I learned this weekend. To some there is a stigma of being on Medicaid. One man said he was embarrassed to show his card. Under the Medicaid expansion with the ACA, the card does not reference Medicaid, so it removes some of the stigma. The man began seeing a doctor and that has made a huge difference.

 

 

Have hope not fear

Have hope, not fear. These are the words that mentor and advocate Wes Moore said he wanted on his tombstone during a recent interview at High Point University in North Carolina. They relate to lessons he received as a child.

Moore came to fame when he wrote and did a documentary on the other Wes Moore, who was born to the same circumstances as the author, but made mistakes, was not encouraged and ended up in prison. The author got a Rhodes scholarship and went off to fight in Afghanistan.

When asked what accounted for the differences in the two outcomes, Moore said something simple and profound. He said it is not one thing, it is a lot of things that made a difference. Expectations, encouragement and environment change played roles.

When the author was a smart aleck teen, he was sent to a military school, which he hated. He ran away five times before settling in. What he regrets is he found out his grandparents mortgaged their house to  pay for the school and if had been kicked out, they would have lost everything for nothing.

Moore was quite interesting, but I was left with two comments. As he advocates and mentors young folks, he asks the question, “Who will you fight for?” Be more than just a major, job, or career, be willing to fight for people.

The other is a wonderful quote from entertainer and advocate Harry Belafonte. Belafonte’s reputation as an advocate cannot be overstated. He fought for people. Yet, he offered a selfish reason to go along with his selfless activism. He said rather than getting up and calling my accountant like some performers, I can get up and call Nelson Mandela. Who has the more interesting life? When you fight for the disenfranchised, your life is more interesting.

Have hope, not fear. Let’s fight with hope for a better life for many. If we fight with fear, we will become narrow minded. Plus, if we help others, our lives will be far more interesting. Moore and Belafonte tell us it is so.

Encourage a No vote on the AHCA

The following is an email posted to my US Representative’s website today.

As a retired benefits actuary, consultant and manager, I encourage you to vote no on the AHCA vote today. The CBO says the modifications made do not alter the expectation that over ten million people will lose coverage. Plus, two hospital groups, two Doctor groups and the AARP have all recommended a no vote.

As a benefits professional, my strong recommendation is to improve the imperfect ACA. It is disappointing that my former party has highlighted the negatives of the ACA, while downplaying the many positives.

I would recommend the ACA be improved with a few changes:
– fully fund the risk corridors to reimburse insurers for adverse selection, the absence of which drove premiums up and forced some insurers out of the market,
– introduce a public option in areas that have no competition,
– encourage the 19 states who did not to fully expand Medicaid.

There are other changes that would help, but getting rid of this law would cause more problems that it would solve. Also, a poor reason to vote for the AHCA is to do so because a President who has little understanding of healthcare and wants to check a box is threatening you.

Please vote no to the AHCA and improve the ACA instead.

Zero Credibility

If you were a foreign leader, let me ask you a simple question. Would you trust the current President of the United States? Unfortunately, the answer is an obvious no. The sad part is the leaders have less trust in America.

With the continuation of his lying and insufficient knowledge of the issues, he has offended several leaders in so little time. His mistakes are unforced, so he has brought them on himself.

His worst mistake which weighs him down as investigations continue are his continuing insistence that his predecessor had his offices wire tapped. He greatly complicated this false accusation by indicting the British in the wire tapping. He damaged a relationship with our best ally, so that he would not be caught in a lie. So, his solution was to lie again.

Adding to these lies are the Russian conspiracy investigation, the incompetently handled travel bans and various insults to Germany, China, Australia, Mexico, Sweden and NATO. He has shown he is something of a loose cannon which unnerves folks. He says he likes to be unpredictable and he is. But, so is a toddler.

Right now, our President has zero credibility. Unfortunately, he is our leader, so we are guilty by association.

Mama told me not to come

Three Dog Night had so many great songs, but when they sang Randy Newman’s song “Mama told me not to come,” they struck a nerve with many. As teens, we wanted to listen less to our parents and more to our friends.

Even when our friends may be leading us down a perilous path, we will continue onward. Even when Mama told us that the path may be fraught with perils, we knew better and we ventured onward. The Three Dog Night song speaks to the realization by our teen selves that walking down that path or, in this case, going to an ill-advised party may have been a mistake. Not wanting to listen to Mama did not make her opinion less valid.

Why am I thinking of this song? I am trying  to put myself in the heads of people who voted for our President as they begin to realize who they voted for. I read a statistic last week from The Los Angeles Times that 11% of Trump voters have regrets. Going beyond the inane tweets, the consistent lying and puzzling incoherence and incompetence, he has submitted a budget and supports the repeal and replacement plan for the ACA which kick his voters in the teeth. This is already after he signed a bill in his first two hours to take away a mortgage premium reduction that would have helped a million Americans and his intention to cease or hamstring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that helps multiple millions of Americans from aggressive and fraudulent financial practices.

“Mama told me not to come,” will be that song which echoes over the cognitive dissonance that will be dished out in spades to Trump voters.