Just a small note about ObamaCare and costs to seniors

Many of you know me as a cranky old geek. With the emphasis on old.

The core of my “income” is that smallish Social Security check that arrives via direct deposit once a month. There is a small amount of money I use as play money in The Market only because I discovered just a few years ago that the sort of computational analysis I believe is assuming more of a useful role in science and scientific research – seems to help a bit with investing.

The amount I play with isn’t enough to make a serious dent in the national economy or even Friday night pizzas.

But, circumstances have forced me, today, to spend an unplanned bit of time with one of my doctors – and another, tomorrow. Nothing serious, nothing important, just a little painful. Those Medicare payments I made all the years of being socially productive are standing me in good stead. And, so far, I’m keeping up with the bills.

Yesterday, my insurance dude came by and we sorted out the changes in Medicare Advantage, coverage for my medical needs. Essentially nothing has changed with ObamaCare, day to day, when I need to wander through checkups or more pressing needs which become slightly more frequent as you approach geezer status. Some coverage has been added – some I don’t think I’ll need in fact.

The annual cost to me has been reduced about 28%. I owe a vote of thanks to President Obama, those Democrats who overwhelmingly passed those changes – and I guess 2 or 3 Republicans. No help from Tea Party types.

I’ll be picking up speed, again, in the next day or two. Posting more frequently. As normal. When I’m not stoned out of my gourd. 🙂

Higher medication spending doesn’t indicate best prescribing quality

Medicare patients in regions that spend the most on prescription medications are not necessarily getting better quality care, according to a new study of spending practices from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH). The findings, published in the Nov. 3 Online First issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, reveal great variation across the country in both drug spending and the rate of inappropriate prescriptions for the elderly.

Lead investigator Yuting Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor of health economics at GSPH, said that even after demographic characteristics such as age and sex, individual health status and insurance coverage are taken into account, it’s clear that Medicare drug spending varies broadly among hospital-referral regions (HRRs).

“Higher spending can be justified if it’s for drugs that are necessary and appropriate and improve patients’ health,” she said. “But if certain drugs are being incorrectly prescribed to seniors, then that can lead to complications and expensive interventions, such as hospitalization. As we try to reform health care to get costs under control, we need a better understanding of how spending differs regionally to make a positive impact…”

Regions where beneficiaries were more likely to be given prescriptions for high-risk or potentially harmful drugs did not necessarily spend more on drugs overall than regions where beneficiaries were less likely to use high-risk or harmful drugs.
In addition, the researchers found that regions where non-drug medical spending was higher also were the places where there was a greater likelihood of high-risk or harmful drugs being prescribed for Medicare beneficiaries.

That contradicts the idea that high spending leads to better prescription practices,” Dr. Zhang noted.

Computational analysis of a half-million Medicare patients used for the study.

Interesting maps. Interesting study.

Harley-Davidson building a motorcycle factory in India


Looks more like a Royal Enfield to me – but, you get the idea

Harley-Davidson, the iconic American motorcycle brand with a cult-like following, has announced it has chosen to build its second assembly plant ever outside the United States in India.

The “complete knock down” plant or CKD is expected to be up and running in the northern Indian state of Haryana in first half of 2011. Parts made in America will be put together for the Indian market in Haryana.

“What we are doing is made in USA, assembled in India, which will have a positive job effect back home which is why we are driving this investment as quickly as we are,” Anoop Prakash managing director for Harley Davidson India told CNN.

The company is trying to expand its brand internationally from 30 to 40 percent by 2014 according to Prakash and India plays an important role in that.

Beyond the obvious market potential there is another major reason Harley-Davidson is building an assembly plant in India — to bring down India’s import duties which right now are so high Indian consumers pay double for fully assembled imported vehicles.

Exporting just the parts to India could lower the import duty tariffs by around 80 percent according to Prakash.

A certain amount of the tale is complete bullshit, of course. I’ve been teasing my friends who are Harley owners – the types who say they’d never own a “rice-burner” – teasing them with a standing bet.

Let me remove all the parts from their all-American Harley-Davidson that aren’t made in the United States and see if they can make it start and run. Because what they end up with is the world’s largest, heaviest push scooter.

There have been significant number of Asian parts on a Harley for decades.

Coppers deliberately ram sheriff’s car in funeral motorcade

A sergeant with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department is upset, claiming an Albuquerque police officer intentionally rammed his unit during a motorcade, sending his two daughters in the backseat to the hospital with neck and back pain.

Albuquerque police say the officer had to block the sergeant’s unit from entering the motorcade in order to protect the motorcycle officers zipping up and down the procession for traffic protection.

The crash happened Monday night on I-40 westbound near the San Mateo overpass. Sgt. Larry Tafoya told KOB Eyewitness News 4 that he was following the motorcade that was transporting the remains of Deputy Dean Miera who was killed in a crash last week…

Commander Eric Garcia of APD’s traffic unit says Tafoya wasn’t following motorcade protocol and that his unit needed to be blocked to protect the motorcycle officers. Garcia says Tafoya tried entering the motorcade late…

Undersheriff Jimmy Salmon sided with the Albuquerque Police Department. “In no way, shape, or form do we believe that the Albuquerque Police Department did anything wrong,” Salmon said…

Tafoya, who’s been in law enforcement for 20 years, told KOB that he plans on contacting an attorney. He also claims Albuquerque police never followed up with him on the crash or voiced any concern for his family.

Life in a 3rd World state. Here these guys are – in a funeral motorcade for an officer who lost his life in a traffic crash – driving into each other over “protocol”.

They could have added to the week’s death toll if they tried just a little harder.

Falling birth-rate can bring prosperity

Birth figures are falling and the proportion of elderly people in the population is rising. This development is often associated with negative consequences for economic growth, but there are no reliable empirical values to back this up, nor can economic models provide clear statements to this effect. Business mathematics analyses at Vienna University of Technology have now shown that a drop in population could actually have a positive effect on prosperity. However, this would require an increase in the level of education of the workforce – at every age.

There has never been a population development like this before, with a decline in the birth rate and rising life expectancy. This means we cannot rely on historical examples in our forecasts. It is vital to come up with alternative model approaches that look not just at economic framework conditions, but also the changing age structure of the population. “We have expanded the neo-classical model of demand for labour to include the age structure of employees,” explains Prof Alexia Fürnkranz-Prskawetz…

The models developed at TU Vienna can help people make the right choice in major decisions: Should preference be given to employing young people instead of older people? Should the budget available for further education be invested more in young people or older people? “Our model shows that the best approach is also to invest in the further education of older members of the workforce,” explains Prof Fürnkranz-Prskawetz. More education for older people results in significant advantages for a company, particularly as there are fewer young people…

Prof Alexia Fürnkranz-Prskawetz recommends that companies should recognise the strengths of older employees and not just look at personal work output: “The collective know-how within the company and the organisation structure are often more important than individual productivity.” The mathematical models also show that it is worth it for companies to prepare in good time for future demographic developments.

And some companies – in some countries – will do exactly that. Some will stick to trying to figure out what the next quarter will bring. RTFA.

The concept has always seemed reasonable to me. Malthusian horrors are always premised upon the cost of maintaining a society – regardless of changing demographic – as either being steady-state or increasing. Doesn’t especially have to be so.

Wireless broadband coming to Australia’s bush country

A major CSIRO breakthrough in wireless technology designed to bring broadband to people living beyond the optical fibre network, is being unveiled in Sydney.

The first half of CSIRO’s Ngara technology will enable multiple users to upload information at the same time, without reducing their individual systems’ data transfer rate of 12 Mbps.

Someone who doesn’t live near the fibre network could get to it using our new wireless system,” CSIRO ICT Centre Director Dr Ian Oppermann said.

“They’d be able to upload a clip to YouTube in real-time and their data rate wouldn’t change even if five of their neighbours also started uploading videos.

“But the really impressive part is the spectral efficiency our team has achieved…”

“Even with just half of our system completed, CSIRO is already helping define the future of wireless technology,” Dr Oppermann said.

Wireless Research Director for Gartner, Robin Simpson, said the most promising aspect of CSIRO’s Ngara technology is that it aims to re-use old analog TV channels.

“This means any rural property or business that can currently receive TV signals could in future connect to high-speed internet just by using a new set-top box,” Mr Simpson said.

CSIRO is currently completing the research and testing of the downlink part of the system, which will also run at 12 Mbps per user.

Bravo. Getting Web access to rural populations is always tough.