Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Musical Fruit

I (not Ashley) would like to share a poem that, I believe, accurately portrays a logical fallacy that many of us fall into. I wish I could cite a good reference to offer my condolences (yes, I mean condolences) to the creator of such a beautiful poem, but alas, all I can offer is a citation to wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beans,_Beans,_the_Magical_Fruit

Without further ado, I cite the version most common at Cornville Elementary:

Beans, beans, the musical fruit.
The more you eat, the more you toot.
The more you toot, the better you feel.
So let's eat beans for every meal!

Notice the logical fallacy. The release of pressure, or "toot," feels pleasant (or rather a relief of discomfort, which can easily be associated with pleasure) so we should have more of it. However, the toot would not be necessary had we never eaten the beans in the first place. The beans are the PROBLEM not the SOLUTION.

Notice the similarities between this logical fallacy and the current "solutions" surrounding health care. First, we need to correctly identify three of the greatest problems in health care (hint: it's not lack of funding).

1) An artificial restriction in the supply curve of medical care. The federal government and the AMA severely restrict the number of doctors and nurses that graduate each year. There are many reasons for this, one being a lack of medical schools and nursing programs, and two the requirement of a ridiculous number of years of schooling to do something such as writing an amoxycillin prescription (your visit costs $40, and the medicine costs $4).

2) Lack of consumer price sensitivity. Consumers of health care do not really care what they pay. The government or insurance company pays for it. Co-pays have helped in this sense, but only partially. A co-pay makes you think twice whether you really need to go to the doctor or not. But once you are there, you do not care how much the total bill is because how much you pay has already been decided. Much of the structure in the insurance industry is setup the way it is because of government policies that go back to price controls from the 1930's and 1940's.

3) Excessive liability for malpractice and ridiculous amounts of red tape and paper work. Check out your closest doctor's office. What is the ratio of secretaries to doctors?

Now we can appropriately exam the "solutions." Almost all of these solutions consist of, "Let's dump loads of money on *place group of voters that you need here*." Only someone who does not understand the purpose of prices can say this with a straight face. Prices are like an auction. There is not enough of a good to go around, so the price keeps going up until there is enough to go around. "Wait!" you say, "That's not fair! Healthcare should not depend on who can afford it!" Then how do you propose healthcare can be efficiently distributed? We already know that there is not enough to go around (otherwise it would be nearly free). To which benevolent holy person would you turn to decide who receives health care, and who does not? A lottery system? Really really long lines?

Governments dumping money into healthcare is like handing out $100 bills to select people in a long line at a movie that will sell-out. The theater correspondingly raises admission prices until the show just barely sells out. More money does not make more seats appear in the theater. The same number of people see the movie. Handing out money simply excludes people who did not receive your "generosity." A side note here: those who need healthcare most, but can't afford it, generally receive it anyway (at the expense of those in the back of the line). If you don't believe this, look into how much hospitals lose every year in uncollected bills. Billions and billions... which then need to be made up by people who actually pay. The price increases.

Ways to remedy the problem in the theater and ways to remedy problems with healthcare are similar. Put more seats in the theater, expand the theater, build another theater, PRODUCE something. Redistributing wealth will not help much. Here are three quick means to create more seats in the theater of healthcare.

A) Build more medical schools and create more nursing programs. The AMA and federal government basically need to get out of the way. The demand is there. The talent is there. Just get out of the way. Alas, the Republicans are not on board with this, and the Democrats actually are directly fighting against this. Another idea would be to reduce the prerequisites for medical school. Require just an associate's degree instead of a bachelor's degree. Better yet, bag the general ed garbage and create a two-year pre-med program.

B) Remove the regulations on insurers so they can create a price sensitive consumer. For example, what if your insurance was structured in the following way: You have $5,000 to spend each year on an HSA card. You also have a $10,000 deductible per year. If you go over $5,000, then it comes out of your own pocket. However, you can carry your balance over to the next year. If you only spend $1,000 this year, you have $9,000 the next. Also, at the end of the year, if you are over $10,000 on your HSA account, you receive the difference between your amount and the $10,000 in cash. Of course, these are arbitrary numbers that I've pulled out. A number of actuaries would have to create the real system, but you get the point. You have a consumer who checks out the prices and quality of all nearby dental and doctor offices before selecting one.

C) Reduce the liability of malpractice and separate malpractice into two categories, honest mistakes and gross negligence (drunk while working, sabotage, etc.).

It's my dream to see a healthcare clinic that resembles Jiffy Lube. You walk in the front door, you see the prices posted, you swipe your HSA-like insurance card. After filling out a diagnosis sheet, you are almost immediately called into the room. A nurse is there with a large television screen on one wall. Because of telemedicine, you have access to specialists from every category ever categorized. You receive a diagnosis, medicine (if needed), and your file is kept electronically. You walk out the back door 15 minutes after walking in the front door. You are charged a dollar-fifty a minute, and you spent 10 minutes with a doctor. The total cost is $15. You may think that this is ludicrous, but when was the last time your insurer rewarded you with cash for being healthy? When was the last time you got out of a doctor's office in 15 minutes? When was the last time you were only charged $15 for a visit? Or better yet, when was the last time you spent a whole ten minutes with the doctor?

Now I feel the need to offer you my condolences if you actually read all the way to this point. My conclusion is this: Kellogg needs to start up soon, or else I might end up writing more entries in this blog.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Unloaded

As promised, here is our update. Oh, I fixed my camera. The card just needed to be formatted. Yay, Josh, for helping me out. We started last Tuesday driving across the country. Amazingly, we got all the way to Iowa that day. After dark, we got some spectacular lightning and thunder, as well as lots of rain. Jake was an excellent driver in such trying conditions. I was much less calm, naturally. But we made it to a Super 8 motel to hunker down for the night. When Jake got to the door of our assigned room, he noticed a light on and the sound of a TV. After the guy at the counter checked and saw feet on the bed when he opened the door, we got a different room down the hall and slept hard.

We got up the next day and drove and drove and drove. America is a big country, by the way. We read an excellent book by CS Lewis, called The Great Divorce. It's about a bus full of people from Hell who go to Heaven for a day to decide whether they will stay or not. It's really about hanging onto the our sins and weaknesses that keep us from Heaven. Many of the people were pretty good folks, and they recognized that Heaven was cool, but lots of them decided they would be happier in Hell. It's short, too--about 145 pages. Go check it out.

Wednesday afternoon we got into Chicago. I called our apartment office (we weren't expected for another day), but we couldn't be let into our apartment that night, unfortunately. So we got a hotel near the airport (the cheapest for MILES) and drove out to our place the next day. Keys in hand, we marched up the 3 1/2 flights to our apartment. And again and again with our stuff. This walk-up thing will take some getting used to. Jake said he was pleasantly surprised with how much space there was and how well storage areas were created in a relatively small space. Here are a couple of pictures from when my mom and I came out last month:

This top one is the view of the dining room from the living room. The next one is the living room itself.
See how beautiful and pristine it all looks? *sigh* It's lovely. Don't get too used to it.

Our belongings were still being shipped, and we hoped they would be there the next day, but we weren't able to pick them up until Tuesday. In the meantime we camped out on our bedroom floor, bought an air conditioner, ate lots of PBJ, and spent a lot of time here at the Kellogg building where we have free internet.

We spent all day yesterday lugging our stuff from the shipping terminal in Des Plaines to our apartment. All day. We are both so sore. But we got help last night from two guys in our ward, David and Brant, who lifted the heavy stuff off the Uhaul and up the stairs while I brought back another load in the car. We would never have been able to do it without them. By the time we finished, it was too late to feed them, but I vow I will make those kind men cookies. So let it be written, so let it be done.

And now our apartment looks like this.




Bottom: What used to be our bed on the floor. We're much happier sleeping on a mattress.
Everything else: everything else we own.

We finished the last load around 1 am, stopped for a quick bite at Wendy's (no food and lots of tired make Ashley cranky), and set up the mattress. Whoever invented the mattress was a wise, wise man. So we're obviously delaying the inevitable by playing around online, but soon we will tackle the mess of epic proportions in our house. Oh, and we know where our priorities are. See?
Coming soon: Gorbachev impressions. Seriously.

Friday, July 18, 2008

We're Here!

Hey friends! Jake and I just wanted to let you all know that we made it safe and sound to the Windy City. Our belongings will be here Monday or Tuesday, so meanwhile we're sleeping on blankets on the ground and eating lots of peanut butter, and I should probably find the laundromat soon. More to come as we get settled and can find an unsecured wireless network...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Camera Issues and Reunions

Jake and I spent most of the week in the Orem area for Andersen and Miller family reunions. I would love to show you some pictures, but alas, we took none. It wasn't for lack of trying though. Here's the story:

Before my mom and I went to Chicago, I charged my camera and got all the old pictures off the memory card. The card holds 512 MB and can take lots and lots of pictures before it gets full. When I turned on the camera before my Chicago trip, it said I could only take 24 pictures. It didn't make any sense. I plugged the thing back into my computer to see if there were anymore stray files, but there were none. During the trip, I used up my memory and then used my mom's memory card. I took off the pictures after the trip and was excited to take more during the reunions this weekend. After turning on the camera, the screen said "Card Full!" I growled a little and plugged it back into the computer to erase the old photos I must not have erased earlier. But no, there was not a single picture to be found on the card. An empty card is not the same as a full card, but apparently my camera does not understand this. I assume the problem is with the card, not the camera, as my mom's memory card seemed to be fine in my camera. So I guess I need to buy a new card (unless someone tells me otherwise).

The reunions were a blast. We went to Lagoon on July 2 to hang out with the cousins and ride the roller coasters and whatnot. I hadn't been to Lagoon in over 6 years, and Jake had never been at all, so it was quite the adventure. The newish coaster, Wicked, is awesome. You start out at a dead stop, go straight up (as in perpendicular to the ground), over the top, and straight down (also perpendicular to the ground). Then you do some fast and twisty speeding and the ride ends. Short, sweet, and surprisingly not nauseating. We did other rides, went to Lagoon A Beach (yes, that's really how it's spelled) for about an hour, and talked and chilled. The next day we went to Orem for lunch and games at the Andersen family park. Jake played a lot of ultimate frisbee, and I played with lots of Corbin. I seriously don't know what I'm going to do without that kid when we leave next week. After dinner at Applebee's, Jake, several cousins, Caleb, Melinda, Benson, Sam, and I picked up firework tanks and souped them up with Piccolo Petes (the whistling ones), spinning flowers, flares, and smoke bombs. Melinda's tank torched us all with her two piccolos shooting straight out. July 4 we went to Provo's Freedom Festival and Colonial Days to watch Jake's Aunt Mimi dance. It was deathly hot outside, but we had fun watching all the people in costumes. That evening we went to the Stadium of Fire. I had never been before, mostly because all the acts in years past were country stars or other music I had no desire to see. Not that I really wanted to see Miley Cyrus, of course, but Jake's family got tickets. The Blue Man Group was cool, but it was hard to catch any subtlety from 1/8 mile away at the back of a stadium. Glenn Beck was a pretty cool host, and the parachuters were awesome! Miley was OK, I guess. I don't like her voice (all right, tweens, shoot me!). It's too nasal. She sounds like she's trying to be much more talented than she really is. But the fireworks! Wow. They went on forever and were pretty much the best fireworks show I've ever seen! There were about three grand finales, and I know I've never seen them that close before. We even got ash rained on us. After the show, Jake and I grabbed orange sherbet to put Jones cream soda over (so good!) and shared it with Caleb, Melinda, and Celeste.

We spent most of Saturday with Jake's Aunt Mimi and Uncle George. Every year, they set up an enormous slip and slide in their backyard. This is no ordinary slide either. They have plastic sheets from one end of the house to the other and about four hoses. At the bottom of the hill, the water gathers near the fence to form a great little splash pool. I'll admit it; I was scared at first, but it was one of the best water rides ever. We ate too much. WAY too much. We hung out with the Murdock cousins (all people I've never met before and whose names all start with the letter M). And we went to Hancock in the afternoon. I liked it. Will Smith is awesome, as usual, and there were some pretty good twists and turns along the way. Go check it out.

And now it's our last week in Utah for a long while. We'll be packing and running errands until we pick up the moving truck next Monday. Wow. One week. Wish us luck.