Health and Insurance

Anthem Loves Me

The last 7 months of my life, from Anthem’s viewpoint, and I’m still not out of the woods. At least I’ve hit the out-of-pocket cap for the year. Bring it on, I guess.

A few of years ago, I had taken a job that was basically a bait-and-switch. It only lasted 4 months, and I got diverticulitis, most likely due to the stress. We both knew it wasn’t working. I called a friend. He got me a job within 2 days. I gave 2-weeks notice.

SGS fired me on the spot, in the middle of tests and procedures. I wound up with $3,000 of uncovered medical expenses. I could have retroactively paid for COBRA insurance, but the premiums to cover those months were… about $3,000, so I just dropped it. Luckily, I could afford it.

Thank goodness for health insurance. However, it’s a fundamentally broken part of our system that it’s tied to employment, and a good job at that. An awful lot of people aren’t so lucky.

In a free market, we could buy health insurance like car insurance, but we don’t have a free market in health insurance. Anything but. We need to be able to buy plans nationwide, and un-couple it from our employment. If Congress won’t fix that, then we will eventually wind up with socialized health care.

Stunning new report ranks US dead last in health care among richest countries—despite spending the most | TheHill

“The U.S. has two health care systems. For Americans with the means and insurance to have a regular doctor and reported experiences with their day-to-day care are relatively good, but for those who lack access, the consequences are stark,” Schneider said.

Source: Stunning new report ranks US dead last in health care among richest countries—despite spending the most | TheHill

As I’ve mentioned here before, half of America — the poor and retirees — are already on Medicare/Medicaid. The private system is held afloat by the middle and upper class. The emerging problem is that the middle class is being squeezed out of existence by wealth inequality. Not too long from now, the split between private and government insurance will tip to 40/60, and the 60% is going to vote people into Congress to get access to what the 40% still have.

The poor performance is nothing new, as the U.S. has landed in last place in all seven studies the Commonwealth Fund has released since 2004.

The really stupid thing about this situation is that we’ve known this bad system has been producing bad outcomes for decades, and the one thing we’ve thrown at it (the Affordable Care Act) only seems to have worsened the disparity.

Maybe there’s no fixing it. Besides Bernie Sanders and maybe AOC, no one is talking seriously about reform. Maybe there’s so much money being thrown at Congress by Big Pharma and Big Insurance that they’ll never be able to mount a voting block large enough to do something about it.

The Desolation of News

“News”

So a “singer” — which Apple plastered on the front page of their music service for many months with a whole boob hanging out — says something controversial about COVID vaccines — which the CDC is already refuting — and Tucker Carlson — arguably the most popular talking head on TV at the moment — makes that tweet news.

I don’t care what she said about COVID. I just want to point out what a crazy world we live in that crazed rants and resulting ratio-ing on Twitter is now news. How is anyone supposed to make head or tails of anything any more?

In the process, though, she proved the old adage true, that even a broken clock is right twice a day. You have to seek clarity from a higher power.

Salesforce offers to relocate employees and their families after Texas abortion law goes into effect

In a message to employees, Salesforce said on Friday that it will help employees and their families relocate if they’re concerned about reproductive care.

Source: Salesforce offers to relocate employees and their families after Texas abortion law goes into effect

As I have been saying for awhile, which company you work for will soon matter more than which county you are a citizen of. We are truly heading for a cyberpunk version of dystopia.

Producer inflation accelerated in August, as wholesale prices rose record 8.3% from a year ago

The producer price index for final demand products was expected to increase 0.6% in August, according to economists surveyed by Dow Jones.

Source: Producer inflation accelerated in August, as wholesale prices rose record 8.3% from a year ago

Between the supply chain constraints, up and down every industry, and the wage demands being forced on companies who can’t find workers, I’ve been expecting this. I think it’s lagging, and we will find it getting much worse soon.

Another: Here’s how inflation is hitting the online prices of everything from apparel to furniture

Big Pharma

But how will new medicines and treatments get approved if we force American health insurance companies to sell at reasonable prices? </SpongeBob mocking> I don’t know, but maybe the hundreds of millions the insurance companies pay their executives would be a good place to find a little funding.

The only reason I can think of that this is not being sold in the US is to preserve cash flows for the testing being done at clinics, doctors offices, and CVS.

Arch Linux

I finally took a look at Arch Linux. I started the process of installing it with Parallels on my MBP. I got to the GRUB configuration step, and then thought, “What in the world am I doing!?” And then I quickly deleted the VM and the install ISO. In the immortal words of Sgt. Murtaugh, “I’m getting too old for this.”

A Computer Company | tyler.io

Things I want a computer company to be

  • Hardware manufacturer
  • Operating system vendor
  • Model for how to build the best software for their platform
  • Good corporate citizen
  • Inspiration

Things I don’t want a computer company to be

  • Music store
  • Music streaming service
  • Television studio
  • Movie studio
  • News aggregator
  • Fitness studio
  • Advertisement company
  • Bank
  • Credit card company
  • Bookstore
  • Subscription podcast service
  • Messaging platform
  • Video game distributor
  • Cloud storage service
  • Online meetings host
  • Email service
  • Health platform
  • Internet proxy
  • Software gatekeeper
  • Arbiter of other company’s business models
  • The entire amount of commerce
  • Monopoly
  • The Police

Source: A Computer Company | tyler.io

I self-hosted my “cloud” applications on my home network for years and years. It was a LOT of work. I finally gave up and gave my digital life to Google. Then I recanted Google, and gave it all to Apple, and then doubled down. When I look at the list like this, I get really unnerved about how much of my life would be lost if my Apple account got blocked, deleted, or stolen. My fallback position is that I ran Linux on the desktop for 19 years, and it works even better for the kind of work I do than macOS. I could switch back, and leave a lot of this list behind.

This is half the reason I haven’t given up on 1Password, and let Apple’s keychain have all my passwords. At least, if I lose my Apple account, I would still have my credentials to get into everything else.

I’ve been using my Apple email for my account name on web sites for several years now. I should probably go back to using my actual address, which I can forward however I like…

‘My Wife Has Cancer’ Reddit Comment Spreads Virally, Prompts…

 

A screenshot of a months-old Reddit comment about the cost of cancer care spread across social media platforms.

Source: ‘My Wife Has Cancer’ Reddit Comment Spreads Virally, Prompts…

Whether the original post is true or not, most of us know someone who has been wracked with medical expenses. I, myself, have had around $15K of uncovered medical expenses in the past few years, not counting the out-of-pocket limits before “benefits” kick in. I can afford this, if only barely. However, the larger and inescapable truth in this country is that the vast majority of us are one cancer diagnosis away from total financial ruin.

I still think that the right way to fix the health care industry in a “capitalistic” system is to regulate the health insurance industry the same way we do car insurance. But the health insurance companies aren’t going to allow themselves to be pressured by the market, and will make sure that Congress does not change the status quo. They are quite content to let the current system continue its decline until it becomes impossible NOT to nationalize it. In my estimation, Big Insurance (like Anthem, Centene, United, and Humana) are all jockeying to get a bigger slice of the pie when the government finally steps in and makes them a department of the Executive branch.

Ubiquiti and Networking Nirvana

For years, I’ve struggled with getting good networking at my house. We had our previous house custom built, and I had it wired thoroughly with CAT5 and RG-6. In my current house, there are coax drops in every room, but some are shorted, some I can’t trace, and some are shared among several outlets. It’s bizarre. There are a few RG11 ports and one RG45 — with a switch? — which I presume all go to the SBC box on the side of my house, to which I have no access.

When we first moved in, I upgraded to a monster Asus WiFi router in my office, which is in the basement. It was OK in the basement, and on the main floor, but spotty on the second floor, of course. Then it burned out. No problem, right? These days, there are lots of mesh WiFi systems on the market.

My next move was to get a Netgear Orbi. It worked, sort of. The problem was that it needed to be rebooted every few days. After months and months of this hassle, and one day where I had to reboot the stupid thing multiple times in a single day, I finally — literally — unplugged the unit in my office, and smashed it on the floor, to force myself to do something else.

I drove straight over to Best Buy, and bought a Linksys Velop, and… immediately regretted my life choices. Linksys’ setup application is even worse than Netgear’s. It’s a clown show of an IoT piece of junk. I fought through it, and finally got the system setup, and the speeds were decent. However, I found that every time I looked at the status on the app, the “middle” floor unit was offline, and needed to be rebooted. Then, one day, the whole system lost its mind, and needed to be re-setup from scratch. I continued to put up with these hassles, rebooting the one unit, and occasionally needing to reset a node.

This is where this story, and its followup, fits into this timeline.

Lest you think my experience with the Velop is an aberration, a good friend of mine has worked for many, many hours with Linksys tech support on his system, and after getting sent several particular firmware versions to try, was recently sent an entirely new set of units.

I had an Aha! moment, and bought 2 pairs of TP Link Powerline adapters to run a “backhaul” line for each of the 2 remote WiFi access points. This seemed to work better. The main floor unit stopped going offline. I thought I was finally on easy street.

Then one day, the entire system lost its mind again. The Comcast service had “locked up” on my modem — again — but this seemed to cause the Velop to not only stop working, but lose its configuration. Given how the setup app basically doesn’t work unless it can “phone home,” I guess it scrammed itself because of this. Whatever the reason, I found this completely unacceptable. I had to get WiFi working again, but I could only pair one of the secondary units. The other just completely refused to work again.

So I ordered a Ubiquiti Dream Machine, and 2 of their NanoHD access points. I use a lot of their gear for networking and security cameras at our church, and it’s not without a learning curve specific to their way of working, but since I knew what I was getting into, and I could afford it, I figured this was my only option left. At this point, I am convinced that all consumer-grade mesh systems on the market are just rubbish. I wasn’t willing to try Amazon’s or Google’s, or whatever. I thought that my existing Powerline adapters would provide the wired connection for the wired-only AP’s to get to the router.

I got the thing all setup, but my speeds were lacking. I pay for gigabit, but I don’t worry much about getting the whole thing. I know that’s not realistic. However, I tried to play Battlefield again, after a long hiatus, and I kept lagging out. Like, every minute. I realized that my Comcast setup was just not working right. Turns out that I was only getting 200 Mbps, and even that was spotty. I spent several hours trying different things and talking to their tech support — twice — and finally got them to straighten it out.

Then I tried to get my son to play Battlefield with me, and he kept lagging out. So I started working on the inside part of the network. I saw that TP Link offers an application to look at their Powerline adapters, and it will report the bandwidth you’re actually getting. I saw that my “backhaul” connections were only getting 100-200 Mbps. In effect, these adaptors were doing exactly what I needed them to do with the Velop: they kept the systems talking just enough to keep them from dropping offline, but continued to use the “mesh” for the actual WiFi traffic. Anyway, I reconfigured the 2 pairs into a single, 4-node network, hoping that this would improve the situation, but it made no difference. In the same room, power line adapters will get near their advertised 2 Gbps, but once you put them across circuits in your house’s electrical panel, the bandwidth is cut by a factor of 10.

In the beginning, I had used a pair of ActionTec coax adaptors to extend my network over to my boys’ PC’s, when they were in the basement. However, the unit I had was capped at 100 Mbps. I wanted to try the new ones rated for gigabit, but was nervous that they would work only as well as the Powerline adaptors. But the Amazon reviews — which, I know, goes against everything I believe about Amazon and ratings systems in general — kept saying that power line adaptors weren’t all they were cracked up to be, and that these were the real deal, and I believed them. So I bit the bullet, fully prepared to send them back. After a lot of tracing and fiddling, I got them setup where they could reach my access points, and they worked… great! This was the final straw to making everything work. They don’t have an app to look at effective bandwidth, but testing from my son’s Playstation shows that he can get 800+ Mbps all the way out the door.

And I haven’t lagged since.

I find myself looking at my Ubiquiti dashboard, and reveling in WiFi nirvana. I can’t believe how much money I’ve spent getting to this point, but now that it’s working like I expect, and it hasn’t missed a beat for many days now, so it feels like it’s been worth it.

To their credit, another friend has Ubiquiti’s Amplifi mesh product, and he says it’s been flawless for him. I was tempted to try their “Alien” version, with multiple units in a mesh configuration, but that would have been even more expensive than what I’ve got now.