Dec. 1, 2015

tax on decisions

Health is a topic that is frequently discussed, however poor choices that affect one's health seem to go hand in hand with with any decription of freedom of choice. Why is it that no one is willing to have a discussion on the topic without becoming mired in the politics of 'freedom of choice"? Perhaps a fair way to look at freedom of choice should begin with how we make choices or are influenced to make those choices. We are all aware of the fact that parental influence, peer pressure, and advertising are the three major things that influence our choices. Years ago, the written word was our only source of information until the advent of radio, then televison, and now the internet. Fifty years ago, kids were forced to read, but seldom chose to read as they were too busy playing cowboys, riding their bikes, or interacting with the neighborhood kids at the local sandlot. During this time, peer pressure increased as parental influence declined, and now, the electronic age of vision and sound has just about taken full control over every aspect of our lives, and especially the influential lives of youngsters. A recent study showed that the male brain does not mature until age 24, yet most youngsters are given decision making powers over what they watch, hear, eat or drink by the time they are teenagers. This becomes a real factor when one considers that many decisions that form habits influencing long-term health are made at this time. Can advertising influence those decisions? Of course it can, especially with the modern medium of vision and sound. Yet the advertisers are doing what they need to do to promote a product that people think they want and that their stock-holders expect them to sell. We need look back in time about one generation to realize that the tobacco companies knew that nicotine was addicting yet encouraged smoking, even increasing nicotine content to help insure addiction. The marijuana industry is now doing much of the same. This is an example of advertising to promote a product in spite of the potential health consequences. Should the government have stepped in as they did? Most would say yes, and peer pressure has now decreased smoking among those knowledgeable in the bad side effects. Perhaps the same form of adverising by the government could stem the tide for marijuana use.

The question now becomes what else should be deemed detrimental and when does government oversight become to extensive? Perhaps the World Health Organization should be the standard bearer on what is or is not detrimental to one's health. We all know that excessive sugar, especially in the form of corn syrup, can lead to a myriad of health problems including obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease, etc. The same or similar can be said for any smoking, excess alcohol use, or over-indulgence of just about any food product. If certain products are deemed detrimental, would it be possible to prevent the advertising of said product, especially now in the freedom of information age?

Maybe a better solution would be a product health tax, with the proceeds of such a tax dedicated to long-term healthcare. In this way, no one's freedom of choice is being affected, and those who "choose" not to over-indulge don't have to help pay the health costs of those that do. One must always remember that too much freedom can become no freedoom at all. If our present way of managing healthcare problems continues along with allowing the 'freedom' to make bad choices, the consequences could be a collapsing, unsustainable healthcare system resulting in a totalitarian type of rule that is finally forced to tell us all what we can or cannot eat or drink (or smoke) to avoid total societal collapse. I guess it gets back to the old saying, "pay me now or pay me much more later"


Jun. 3, 2015

let's call medicare!

Recently I decided to close one account in my local bank, and use another one in the same bank for all my transactions. I rarely use an automatic bill paying option, but sevearl years ago opted to do just that for my medicare payments. Although it took them quite some time to process the "paperwork" (something the private sector does in days, not months), in the end I felt it would save time and ever increasing postage costs. Unfortunately, the payment was set up using the account I was closing. Since the new account was in the same bank, I was hoping the bank could process the change but was told I had to contact 'Medicare'. I retrieved some of my old part 'B' statements, looked up the instructions on the back under 'special messages' and initiated the process indicated which informed me I must call the 800 number. I dialed the number and then proceeded through the automated messages ( 5 minutes worth) only to be put on hold for the next 10 minutes. Finally, a real person answers the phone and again I provide another couple of minutes of information in order for her to say "How can I help you ? ". I explain the situation, wanting to change the account number from which my part 'B' payment is made, and included that this was within the same bank. "Yes, I can do that for you....can you hold please ? ". Another several minutes goes by. " You will need to go to the website for the forms or we can send them to you."  "Hmmm...since I needed to go to the website, why wasn't that option listed on the very succinct instructions telling me I had to call the 800 number ? ", I queried. No reply other than, " I'm sorry for any inconvenience. Would you like me to mail you those forms ? ".  At this point I said sure and asked how long it would take. Her reply was three weeks ! In the end, I will of course download the material to mail in. To me, this is a prime example of government waste and inefficiency. Thirty minutes of my time and that of a paid government employee in order to send, at your tax dollars expense, a form the will be generated by the government and delivered by a government salaried employee (they don't have to "order" it to then mail it out) 3 weeks !! Amazon or any other company would be out of business in short order with that kind of service !