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What’s in my Instapaper queue?

It’s getting crowded in the Instapaper queue.  Time to clean it out.  This is what I’ve found interesting lately:

1.) The Dragons of Inaction is a 2011 paper from the journal American Psychologist listing the reasons behind the resistance to climate change claims.  As you may expect, resistance can be grouped into ideological and non-ideological causes.  One of the most interesting causes is mistrust.  We should expect that the people most likely to benefit from climate change denialism will play on trust issues in their target audience.  The conclusion section is light on recommendations but I thought it would be a good exercise to learn how the Fox News crew might put this information to use.

2.) An Ominous Health Care Ruling is the latest editorial by the NYTimes on the two Obamacare rulings yesterday regarding subsidies.  The editorial board is remarkably frank, given its boosterism for the ACA:

The 2-to-1 decision issued by the panel hinged on how to interpret language in the Affordable Care Act that most experts agree was poorly drafted and would ordinarily have been corrected by a Congressional conference committee. In this instance, there was no conference committee because the law was passed on a take-it-or-leave-it vote in the House to avoid a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

But then it reverts to form at the end by stating that regardless of what Congress did or didn’t do by rushing the bill through, the judiciary has a responsibility to not use ideology as an excuse to take subsidies away.  IMHO, the ACA perfectly demonstrates my former advanced inorganic chemistry prof’s saying, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” In other words, we are all potentially screwed by the effects of this bad legislation until Congress decides to do it over the right way.  When it has time.  And when it also has the rare astronomical convergence of a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, a majority in the House and a president in the White House who, you know, actually gives a crap.  Maybe some time next century. Maybe that was the plan.

3.) In A $650Million Donation to Psychiatric Research, we find research into the causes and a cure for bipolar disease funded by a billionaire with deep pockets who also has a son afflicted with the condition.  It’s great for people with bipolar spectrum disorder but not so great in that it takes a private person to fund it.  The reason so many pharmaceutical companies are pulling out of psychiatric research is that it’s incredibly expensive and there is an extra hurdle to jump when it comes to the brain.  It’s called the blood brain barrier and it gives drug designers and medicinal chemists fits because only compounds with certain physical properties can cross this barrier and they are devilishly hard to make and get approved.  So, you know, there’s not so much profit in it for Big Pharma.  And now we have to rely on billionaires with a personal stake.  {{sigh}}

By the way, the recipient of this largess, the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA, is primarily a computational biology outfit.  That will be very useful for tracking down the genetic causes and systems biology associated with bipolar spectrum disorder and schizophrenia but biologists don’t make the drugs.  That’s what medicinal chemists, structural biologists and drug designers are trained to do.  It will be curious to see going forward whether the Broad Instituts recruits more of these specialties or decides to farm them out.  Farming it out would be a mistake, I think, since project teams need to see the same material and work on it together.  On the other hand, if Broad doesn’t mind hiring modelers remotely, I am available.  ;-)

4.) The Atlantic posted an article on The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence.  In short, being acutely attuned to the emotional states of everyone around you might be great for salespeople but it sucks for people working in professions that require concentration and contemplation.  For the latter group, paying attention and kissing up to the people around you is a distraction.  The resulting effects on the working environment of those people expected to play the EQ game when they don’t have time for it are predictable. From the study cited in the article:

Cote’s team assessed how often the employees deliberately undermined their colleagues. The employees who engaged in the most harmful behaviors were Machiavellians with high emotional intelligence. They used their emotional skills to demean and embarrass their peers for personal gain.

Seen that happen with my own eyes.  Depressing but all too common, especially in the uber-competitive environments engineered by biz school grads and propagated throughout the industries they manage.

5.) The website, Ask the Headhunter, has a video for those of you who can’t get through the HR filters that you are required to navigate to apply for jobs.  If you are lucky enough to already have a job and haven’t been through this exercise in futility, it goes something like this: You see a job on a website for which you are (probably over)qualified and are directed to the company’s HR application system.  Then you spend hours per application uploading your resume and then reformatting it (god knows why the reformatting step is necessary but the OCR never gets it right.  Besides, didn’t you just upload a copy of your resume??).  Anyway, after you have edited and reformatted and written a brilliant cover letter telling the company all of the reasons why you would be more than perfect for the job, you never hear from them again.  Oh, sometimes you’ll get a form generated reply saying they received your information.

The truth is, there are filters that are set to weed people out and nobody knows what they are.  In some cases, the HR filter is set so unproductively that most applicants who qualify never make it to the resume review round.  That may be why so many employers whine they can’t get good help anymore.  If they would only hire people who could reset the filters for them they might get better candidates.  But to do that, they’d have to reset the filters themselves in the beginning and that takes vigilance, time and probably one FTE. It’s a vicious circle. Nick Corcodilos says to scrap the resume and don’t bother going through the HR application process.  The best way to get a job is to hang around people in your field or the area that you want to get into, and make connections.  In other words, you need to be a human with a face because HR filters do a lousy job of staffing and are probably not worth your time.

6.) Alistair McCauley reviewed the current production of the Bolshoi’s Swan Lake at Lincoln Center.  It’s not pretty but it is a fun read:

At the start of every dance, my heart would lift again, noting some marvelous feature of Bolshoi style. The communicative generosity of manner! The thick-cream legato flow and keen dynamic sense! The juicy red-meat richness of texture! The unaffectedly erect posture of the torsos and their gorgeous pliancy! The easy amplitude of line! The powerful sweep through space! Yet nothing availed. Each dance soon grew monotonous.

I can’t remember, is McCauley the critic who thinks all ballerinas could stand to lose a little weight?  Anyway, I’m not a fan of companies with a lugubrious ballet style.  Give me something livelier, and, er, probably not Swan Lake.

7.) I. Must. Have. This. Desk from CB2.  I am confident that my life and blogging will be improved by it.

And a heads up to you IKEA fans.  The 2015 Catalog is supposed to hit the interwebs tomorrow.  I can hardly wait!

8.) Finally, I am on the third part of the longest Audible book I have ever “read”.  It’s The Last Lion, a biography of Winston Churchill.  It’s excellent and probably more detailed than any biography has a right to be.  Highly recommended.  5 sponges.

So, I ran across a page on some of his predictions and inventions.  For example, did you know that Winston invented the tank and the onesie?  Ok, maybe not his finest hour.  But he was a great futurist.  Check it out.

The funny thing is, Churchill was never a great student but he had a formidable intellect.  He was definitely not Ivy League material in the most 2014 sense of the word.  That would have been a great loss for England if our current standards of performance were in effect then.  He might have ended up writing Op/Eds for WaPo and gone no further in life.

And here are a few Winston quotes for good measure:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” (Sound familiar?)

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”

“It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

He made his share of mistakes and was on the wrong side of history as far as women’s suffrage was concerned (they turned out for him anyway).  He failed many times but he learned from his failures and he never surrendered.  Cool dude and an honest guy.  We need someone like him right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obamacare subsidy rules overturned by Republican judges.

Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?  From ThinkProgress:

On Tuesday, two Republican judges voted to rewrite this history. Under Halbig v. Burwell, a decision handed down by Judge Raymond Randolph, a Bush I appointee, and Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush II appointee, millions of Americans will lose the federal health insurance subsidies provided to them under the Affordable Care Act — or, at least, they will lose these subsidies if Randolph and Griffith’s decision is ultimately upheld on appeal.

[...]

The two Republicans’ decision rests on a glorified typo in the Affordable Care Act itself. Obamacare gives states a choice. They can either run their own health insurance exchange where their residents may buy health insurance, and receive subsidies to help them pay for that insurance if they qualify, or they can allow the federal government to run that exchange for them. Yet the plaintiffs’ in this case uncovered a drafting error in the statute where it appears to limit the subsidies to individuals who obtain insurance through “an Exchange established by the State.” Randolph and Griffith’s opinion concludes that this drafting error is the only thing that matters. In their words, “a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’” and that’s it. The upshot of this opinion is that 6.5 million Americans will lose their ability to afford health insurance, according to one estimate.

Done in by a drafting error.  Huh.

I think I am being too hopeful about it being the end of the beginning and that maybe the country will get serious about a national healthcare policy that includes true universal responsibilities and cost controls.  After all, if you’re still receiving insurance from your employer, there’s probably no rush on your part.  You probably feel either distant compassion for those of us poor souls who have to put up with this ACA crap or indignant that we are insufficiently grateful for the miserly coverage we are forced to pay for.

But the Republicans might have done us a favor for being the obstinate, selfish, mean-spirited, take-no-prisoners, uncompromising assholes that they are.  At some point, the sheer weight of all of this pigheadedness, coupled with insurance insecurity, may actually provoke a backlash against them and we could end up with Democratic congresspersons motivated to actually fix the gigantic flaws in this byzantine, unworkable and deeply unsatisfying act.

Well, we can dream.

Update: Top comment from the NYTimes article on the same subject shows the bitterness towards the Democrats who compromised too much:

Kevin Rothstein

is a trusted commenter Somewhere East of the GWB 1 hour ago

Someday, our nation will adopt single payer. The Democrats in name only in Congress sold the people down-the-river by failing to adopt a public option.

The blame lies with Sen. Max Baucus and the former Senator from Aetna, Joe Lieberman, among others.

We also have a president who was not willing to argue forcefully enough for the public option, as Obama is also a centrist Democrat elected to maintain the status quo while pretending to offer hope and change, just as another centrist Democrat, from a town called hope, allowed Wall Street to hijack his better angels.

That’s assuming they actually had better angels, Kevin.

You’re so cute when your angry

James Buchanan

Gail Collins has an editorial in the NYTimes this morning about how those of us who see the Obama years as a colossal failure are wrong.  Apparently, there was some poll commissioned that revealed that many people think Obama is the worst president since WWII.  I personally don’t think this is true.  No, I think he might rank right up there with Buchanan. So, that predates the Civil War.  And the reason I think this is because under Obama, the plutocrats have gained so much ground that we average working people will have to replay the entire twentieth century to gain it back.

I’m getting pretty tired of hearing from serious and semi-serious people (I’m looking at you Paul Krugman), that those of us who desperately wanted a true Democrat in 2008 are now closet Republicans and racists because we aren’t sufficiently supportive of Obama’s many subtle “achievements”.  I guess you just have to be a poor schlub to really

Warren Harding, he’s so dreamy

understand what has been lost.  It does not help their cause when they tell us we have no right to be angry at the positively shitty job Obama has done since he was elected.  He’s made stupid excuses for his fecklessness ever since he took office and his chorus line has been saying “It’s not his fauuuuult.  He inherited all this crap from the Bushies!” since before the inauguration.  If he didn’t think he could handle the job, he shouldn’t have run.  He should have stepped aside for more qualified candidates.

The NYTimes also has a short article on internal and instrumental motivations.  It turns out that internal motivations, like liking what you are doing, having an interest in it and striving to be the best, are more important to success than instrumental motivations like fame, fortune and promotions.  In Obama, we see a perfect example of internal versus instrumental motivations.  He may have gotten the fame and renown, but as a president interested in using politics to govern well and carry out his vision, he sucks.

Please stop trying to tell us he’s not that bad.  He is.  The fact that we are even debating whether his legacy is in the same league as Warren Harding is telling and if the ACA gets cemented in place, there will be many future generations who will curse his name for hooking them up like cash cows to the insurance industry.

Thank god it will all be over by 2016 and we can look at the smoking ruins and start to rebuild.

(Un)intended Consequences?

IMG_1110

The last vacation I took: Bethany Beach, Delaware, July 2011

In a day or two, I will relate my own ongoing struggle with Obamacare (it’s not positive, believe it or not).  But for now, I want to talk about something I saw yesterday on Corrente regarding the Clinton papers and what Hillary Clinton had to say about the individual mandate.

But first, let me tell you about Jobs4NJ.  When I was laid off back in 2011 from the job I loved, I signed up for the NJ job matching service.  You upload your CV to their database, spend 2 hours correcting all the formatting mistakes, and wait.  By the way, we were told at the NJDOL that we could also apply for state jobs but that each job application would require a $25 fee.  That fee was non-refundable whether you got a job or not.  Imagine asking a bunch of unemployed people to cough up $25 for each job opening they saw on the state employment site.  I’m wondering if that was a Christie innovation.  The DOL employees were extremely kind, helpful and treated us with dignity and respect and even they thought the fee was outrageous.

Anyway, getting back to Jobs4NJ.  They sent me some job listings.  The good positions were gone, gone, gone from NJ.  The postings I got had descriptions that seemed a bit vague, as if the companies themselves weren’t really sure what they wanted.  Most positions in “science” were really business positions.  Apparently, R&D has an unmet demand for marketing and finance specialists.  Labrats?  Ehhhh, not so much.

I applied to some of the few low level lab positions that were available, and, as is the custom these days with companies, never heard back from any of them that they even received my CV and cover letter or what exactly the mismatch was.  This was not the example of malignant narcissism run amok that I alluded to a couple of days ago though.  I would be grossly exaggerating if I characterized this all too typical insensitivity towards jobseekers as evil.  I’m saving the story of true senseless malice for a book.

I still get email from Jobs4NJ, though you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to go back to that state.  But I noticed something the other day about the new positions.  Quite a few of them have the word “CONTRACT” in the post.  Hmmm, that’s a new one, thought I.  And then, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Over a year ago, I predicted that the ACA would lead to a greater number of contract positions.  And why is that?  There are a couple of reasons.  One, it allows many corporations to go “weightless”.  They don’t have to offer their workers benefits if they get a third party vendor to handle their human resources needs.  That third party vendor becomes a middle man, matching up contractors with the company.  The middle man becomes the tax collector who processes the paperwork and handles the  untidy business of interacting with the people who, you know, get their hands dirty in the labs.  (Sidenote: It always amused me when I compared the executive cafeteria with the R&D cafeteria.  The business workers had bespoke prepared foods, plenty of healthy and delicious options and an on-call nutritionist who would consult with you on your dietary needs.  I witnessed this personally one day.  The R&D cafeteria served the kind of high fat, high calorie limited entrees that would be perfect for coal miners, not a bunch of bespectacled, skinny geeks.  But since the executives rarely interacted with us, we may perhaps excuse them for thinking we were grimy blue collar lumberjacks who needed 5000 calories per serving of bland, greasy food.)

The other reason why the ACA is leading to a greater number of non-full time, contract positions is that because the employer mandate keeps getting put off, indefinitely, it seems, the employee is now responsible for carrying the weight of the health care premiums, which, by the way, are still astronomical when the deductibles and OOP expenses are factored in.  An increase in precariousness shouldn’t be surprising.  Why should an employer invest money in training and retaining an employee when they don’t have to?  It’s a kind of moral hazard, is it not?

So, it came as no surprise to me that Hillary Clinton saw a flaw in the individual mandate back in the 90s.  Let’s be clear, that’s not the same as a universal mandate, which seems to be a cornerstone of successful national health care systems around the world.  It’s important that all stakeholders, employees and employers, buy in to the system or it doesn’t work.  But to put all of the burden on individuals and letting employers get away with no responsibility?  According to the papers, Hillary Clinton said that was a problem:

“That is politically and substantively a much harder sell than the one we’ve got — a much harder sell,” Clinton said. “Because not only will you be saying that the individual bears the full responsibility; you will be sending shock waves through the currently insured population that if there is no requirement that employers continue to insure, then they, too, may bear the individual responsibility.”

Yes, this is exactly what is happening.  EVERYONE is potentially affected.  Even worse, there may be a two tier system of employees.  I can just imagine the better connected, legacy ivy league graduates becoming fully vested in the employee benefit system while the state school graduates scramble from job to job trying to find a foot hold.  It’s already happening in the pharmaceutical industry where what the MBAs consider the cream of the crop get the few coveted positions in Cambridge and San Francisco and the rest of us run from contract position to contract position, or stuck in an endless series of low paying post doc positions.  (Sidenote: you politicians are crazy if you think we former scientists are going to let you get away with the “there aren’t enough STEM workers” schtick.  We are already all over the comments sections and posting loud and clear that there is no shortage.  We’re not going to let our children languish in the labs for decades while they make less money than a first grade teacher for all the education they have.)

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!!

What else do contract workers not have besides health care benefits?

Well, I will tell you because I have been there.  They don’t have pensions, 401K plans, sick days, holidays or vacation days. They don’t get tuition discounts or reimbursements.  They don’t get to ride the buses for free nor can they get a spot in the employee parking lots.  And if you are a temp or contract worker, you don’t really have ANY labor protections.  You may have trouble getting paid due to the way companies pay their invoices.  In some cases, you have no protection against discrimination.  Think of how gay contractors fare with even the federal government.  YOU’RE a CONTRACTOR.  Your boss could call you in at any time of the day or night and make unreasonable demands on your time.  He may decide to arbitrarily cut your hours in half one week and let YOU worry about how you’re going to pay the rent or health insurance premium while your kid is in the hospital. As a temp worker “you do not have a salary”, as I was so brusquely  and dismissively reminded one day.

See where this is going?  Sorry, people, this is where we already are.  It’s not the future of employment.  It is the now.  Check out the Freelancer’s Union to see what employment is turning into.  A rational person would become debt free as quickly as possible and build a tiny house with solar panels and no plumbing and grow their own food.  We can let Krugman wax rhapsodic about what would happen to the economy if everyone cut back and accrued as little debt as possible.  Talk about lack of demand.  But that’s where we’re headed.  Those of us who were lucky enough to have some savings when the masters of the universe decided to pull up stakes and grab the pie for themselves have decided to stop spending money.  It’s self preservation but it’s not healthy for the country.  No more Royal Caribbean cruises, no more vacation rentals at the shore.  We question whether we really need that bentwood coffee table and agonize over hair cuts.  We save up for the days we have to call in sick.  We put off replacing our broken phones.

I think it’s time we stopped making excuses for our politicians that let this happen.  In fact, I’m not blaming Republicans for the recent, drastic, horrible negative turn of events that working people are experiencing right now.  They were like snakes and we knew what they were.  Their poison was already well understood by the educated working class.  We have no one to blame but ourselves for allowing the stealthy predators into our midst in the last 6 years.  Some of us were so bedazzled by being called “creative” that we failed to look closely at who our new friends were.

But whether the war on the working class by the financiers was intentional or not, we can no longer deny, or should I say, we deny at our peril, that our nation’s top politicians have provided a moral hazard for finance and businesses both large and small, to continue to shed benefits and worker protections via the contracting route.  In the pharmaceutical area, this was accomplished easily by laying off hundred of thousands of R&D professionals in the wake of the Great Recession and now hiring us back as contractors.  Indeed, the high unemployment rate of the last several years coupled with the delay in the employer mandate for the ACA has created a perfect storm where the stripping of compensation is going to pick up even faster and reach deeper into the American workforce just as Hillary predicted decades ago.

It’s happening so fast that many of us don’t even realize the predators are on us until we’re being forced down the gullet.  Will this become a harder sell politically in November 2014?  We will see.

Democrats are screwed next year if they can’t figure this out

Another short one and I’m gone.

I’ve noticed that a lot of partisan Democratic blogs have kinda sorta stepped away from the relentless cheerleading of the ACA.  Now, the message is, “Well, the GOP plan is nothing so Obamacare *HAS* to work”.

I’m guessing that a lot of researchers have been there.  You spend months, years on a project and the sucker just refuses to go anywhere.  There are no breakthroughs.  Generally, it’s the biologists’ fault but what are you going to do?  You don’t want to abandon the project so you keep propping it up.  Unless you have a really talented project leader who can reassess and has the courage to take a new approach, the project is doomed to being terminated the next time it comes up for review.

That would be 2014.

Look, guys.  I’m talking to YOU, Democrats.  I don’t know what your project manager has been telling you but if you don’t get your shit together and offer a radical and effective alternative to the ACA, you’re all going to be laid off in the next round of restructuring.  You may get laid off anyway because that’s just the way things go these days.  There’s always some political asshole gunning for your job and trying to steal credit.  But as long as you are employed, you might as well do your f&*(ing jobs.

There should be THREE health care reform plans: the non-existent GOP plan, the Obamacare “let’s give the insurance companies everything they want and guarantee a hefty profit for them for eternity!” plan and YOUR plan.

Your project manager is incompetent.  He got promoted too soon before he even ran a single project on his own.  If you don’t want him to take you down with him, you’d better figure out a way of digging yourself out of this hole. And let me make this perfectly clear to you, because you don’t seem to be getting it: protecting your project manager with phrases like “it’s not his fault, it’s the policy” is not helping you.  Of course it’s his fault because it is his policy but he and his friends are going to point the finger at anyone but himself.

And may I remind you that every other country in the developed world has figured out how to do this without impoverishing the citizens who through no fault of their own have been forced to seek insurance on the independent market. And here’s an update for you: back in 2009 this might have been a tiny segment.  It is tiny no longer. More and more people are unemployed or underemployed and don’t get health benefits.  Stop calling us a tiny fraction.  We are legion these days.  That’s why there has been so much outrage over this stupid, ill-conceived policy and it’s disastrous implementation.

There is no excuse for failure here.  There are a lot of templates to choose from.  Pick one and get on with it.

You have a year.

Well, Duh. (in which RD and Lambert apologize for being prematurely correct)

It’s been almost two weeks since the ACA exchange sign up system has been up and running and we have an initial evaluation courtesy of the NY Times, From the Start, Signs of Trouble at Health Portal:

WASHINGTON — In March, Henry Chao, the chief digital architect for the Obama administration’s new online insurance marketplace, told industry executives that he was deeply worried about the Web site’s debut. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience,” he told them.

“So much testing of the new system was so far behind schedule, I was not confident it would work well.”
—RICHARD S. FOSTER, who retired as chief actuary of the Medicare program in January

Two weeks after the rollout, few would say his hopes were realized.

For the past 12 days, a system costing more than $400 million and billed as a one-stop click-and-go hub for citizens seeking health insurance has thwarted the efforts of millions to simply log in. The growing national outcry has deeply embarrassed the White House, which has refused to say how many people have enrolled through the federal exchange.

Even some supporters of the Affordable Care Act worry that the flaws in the system, if not quickly fixed, could threaten the fiscal health of the insurance initiative, which depends on throngs of customers to spread the risk and keep prices low.

“These are not glitches,” said an insurance executive who has participated in many conference calls on the federal exchange. Like many people interviewed for this article, the executive spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not wish to alienate the federal officials with whom he works. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.’ ”

Interviews with two dozen contractors, current and former government officials, insurance executives and consumer advocates, as well as an examination of confidential administration documents, point to a series of missteps — financial, technical and managerial — that led to the troubles.

Politics made things worse. To avoid giving ammunition to Republicans opposed to the project, the administration put off issuing several major rules until after last November’s elections. The Republican-controlled House blocked funds. More than 30 states refused to set up their own exchanges, requiring the federal government to vastly expand its project in unexpected ways.

The stakes rose even higher when Congressional opponents forced a government shutdown in the latest fight over the health care law, which will require most Americans to have health insurance. Administration officials dug in their heels, repeatedly insisting that the project was on track despite evidence to the contrary.

Dr. Donald M. Berwick, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2010 and 2011, said the time and budgetary pressures were a constant worry. “The staff was heroic and dedicated, but we did not have enough money, and we all knew that,” he said in an interview on Friday.

Um, money is not the problem.  After all, the social security system, IRS and Medicare don’t have these problems.  Those of us who have seen modern IT initiatives at work in these modern times have a completely different take on this.  It’s a tale about private companies seeking big contracts, using a lot of money to wine and dine the purchasing managers, executives with big bonuses and lots and lots of subcontractors here and in India that have to do the grunt work.  As I wrote earlier this year when the first signs of unreadiness were posted:

The official line is that employers and their reporting systems are not ready yet.  Also not surprised.  The idiots in charge hired Accenture to run their technology.  The hiring managers should have come to former Pharma people for a performance evaluation of Accenture first but you know, workers are never asked to critique decisions like whether hiring Accenture to design information systems was a good idea.

Here’s how it works.  Accenture breezes into a company with their sharp suits and flashy presentations and completely bamboozles the management with promises of slick vaporware. Then they subcontract out to a couple of companies, who subcontract to India.  The Indian subcontractors do the best they can with limited information and the template code into which every business model must fit.  That gets passed back to the poor guy stateside who has to debug and rewrite everything.  The final result is, well, never final.  I’ve never known an Accenture job that actually completed on time, under budget and with all the bells and whistles that were initially promised.  The Pharma landscape is littered with systems that don’t work very well but have pushed aside the in-house programs they outbid to replace.  Meanwhile, the Accenture guys just move to another company.  Commence the parties and golf outings!

And why should we be surprised?  This health care policy was all about campaigning and the worst kind of politics.  It was not about well crafted public policy. It was about letting the private sector make a profit off of healthcare for the uninsured and those of us already paying astronomical rates for individual policies.  In fact, almost from the start, the Obama administration made it perfectly clear that the dirty f^&*ing hippies could be safely ignored and no one had to pay attention to public options or single payer.  They were not invited to the meetings where “everything is on the table” because the Obama crew and their law and biz school pedigrees already knew what was best for Obama.  Best for us?  What did that matter? Highjacking those Democratic activists who thought so highly of their intellectual capabilities was incredibly easy and after that, they didn’t need to answer to anyone.

I keep saying it all goes back to the primaries of 2008 but does anyone listen?  {{sigh}}

Don’t expect anyone to accept responsibility.  In fact, every subcontractor involved is busily pointing fingers at each other in that NYT article.  Maybe it would have been better to let ONE government agency handle it and NOT insist that every private IT industry partner with their hands out participate.  I expect that the Obama administration and its armchair cheerleaders will say something like, “Well, it’s too late to do anything about it now and the money’s already spent so, you know, suck it up.”.  Then the Republicans will point at it as just another example of government failure when we’ve already had so many instances of government success that could have been better examples.  A better response might be “Medicare for All” where everyone is covered and the government (that would be US, oh best beloved) has the size and power to force cost control measures on the medical industry. It’s only one possible solution from many possible solutions of national health care policies from around the world. Something like single payer or public option would set Republicans’ hair on fire and guarantee Democratic majorities for generations.

I’m not sure what the Obama fan boys (white male graduate student types) thought they were getting when they forced Obama on the rest of us but what they actually got was a guy who is ideologically opposed to New Deal type initiatives and loves modern finance solutions (and how has that worked for us in the past 5 years?) and Accenture was right up his alley.  And note that we haven’t even discussed whether the exchanges offer a good, affordable product that isn’t inferior to the one you might get if you were covered by your employer.  Those of us in the individual market who used to have company plans know the difference.  Our number is legion these days and we’re a lot harder to bamboozle.

As Jon Stewart pointed out last week, the administration has had 4 years to get this right.  That’s a lot of time.  There really shouldn’t be any acceptable excuses.  On the other hand, this *IS* how the private sector works when it comes to big, expensive interfaces.

You get what you vote for.  Oh, you didn’t vote for this?

For more continuing coverage and critique, check out Lambert’s ObamaCare ClusterF^&* series at Corrente where Lambert was prematurely correct on the technology rollout. This post from May seems especially relevant.

One more thing:

I haven’t been paying attention to this site as much as I used to due to real life stuff but oddly enough, a few months ago I was going through the spam filter in my hip waders when I ran across a slew of comments about the upcoming implementation of the ACA.  These comments were all unreservedly enthusiastic about the ACA, which I thought was really weird.  It’s weird because we haven’t set up any trigger words in our settings file that would automatically filter out these kinds of comments.  You can gush all you want about the magic beans in Obamacare and your comment should get through without any interruption.

So, why were these comments automatically tagged as spam?  My theory is that these comments came from a company that was originally hired by either the DNC or the Obama campaign in 2008.  At one point in time back then (about may-June 2008), we got sick of the comments that accused us of being racists or stupid or stupid racists or old women or failing to jump on this historic bandwagon of “yes we can”dom so we started throwing certain usernames and IP addresses of the most persistent and annoying of these commenters into the spam filter.  The policy of this site was to not allow our readers to be subjected to a lot of spamesque peer pressure.  A lot of other sites allowed comments like that through and they quickly became unrecognizable campaign mouthpieces.  We didn’t want that to happen here so we spammed them.

Now, I rescued those comments from the spam filter and put them in the moderation queue for further research but haven’t done the actual work yet because cross referencing them against the settings file entries seems tedious but if anyone else wants to take this on, let me know and I’ll forward them and you can knock yourself out.  But the reason I bring this up is that I’ve been to the NYTimes comments section on the article listed above and it seems like there are an awful lot of “I logged into the exchange the first day and got a great deal on an insurance policy so quicherbitchin” type comments there.  They may be genuine, if so they are among the tiny few that got on the exchanges and purchased successfully (I think the number is something like 51,000 successful logins and fewer successful purchases).

But if they’re not, I’d like to know who or what is paying for the online astroturf.

PPACA FAQ: Verifying Eligibility, The Honor System

In previous segments (Part 1, Part 2) we’ve talked about the health insurance options of a four person family with wife (employee) husband and two children. In the scenario we discussed, the employee was offered affordable coverage through her employer but, coverage that included her children was well over what this family could afford and there was no option at all for her husband.

In a way, the situation for this family is still the same — the law hasn’t changed. But with the announcement this week (see this and this) that due to the complexities in reporting, the penalties for large companies (those with 50+ employees) will not be collected until 2015, how will this family’s eligibility be verified?

For now it seems, we are all on The Honor System:

Delay in Obamacare requirement puts onus on the honor system

In addition, without the reporting requirements of the employer mandate in 2014, “the exchanges and the IRS will not be able to verify whether someone’s coverage is unaffordable” and thus whether the person is eligible for subsidies, said law professor Timothy Jost of Washington and Lee School of Law in Lexington, Virginia.

That leaves it up to individual consumers to be honest about what they do, or do not, qualify for.

A ‘BOATLOAD’ OF ILLEGITIMATE TAX CREDITS

“The shift of employees to the exchanges could cost (the government) a boatload,” said Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan. “Some people who are ineligible for subsidies, because their employer offers affordable insurance, may attempt to get subsidies on the exchanges. The IRS will have a hard time policing that sort of conduct.”

States running their own Obamacare exchanges are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the delay in the employer-reporting requirement.

I can see how they think that would work. But, let’s look at our family again.

Mom’s insurance costs 9.5% of family income but the employer-offered plan that covers the children is much more than that. Will the family understand that the mom’s affordable insurance means that the children are not eligible for insurance through the exchanges? And what if Mom’s employer does offer a plan for dad? My understanding of the PPACA is that dad isn’t eligible for subsidies and the new Exchanges either.

Is that really true? It seems very unfair to me.

How can an Honor System work for such a deeply unfair policy?

I am going to ask my Senators, Pat Roberts & Jerry Moran and my Congressman, Kevin Yoder what they think about it.

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