Obamacare Overview

Obamacare has not been high on my priority list even though it should be, because like many middle class Americans it’s going to change the way I buy and use health care.   I’d almost apologize for not understanding all the rules, but clearly *nobody* knows what’s up with the new system and equally clearly most of the comments and analyses from both sides are biased junk.    Here I’m going to try to post the few actual facts about the system as I learn them – though I’m also thinking of starting a website for this purpose.

ObamaCare “Individual mandate”.    This key part of ObamaCare will affect about 40 million Americans.   Not clear how it will affect those insured through their work, though most seem to think “not much”.   The Individual Mandate was upheld yesterday by the Supreme Court,  says that you need to buy health insurance or pay a fine.   The fine will start small and INCREASE annually.  At first the fine is small enough that healthy families like mine, who have used catastrophic high deductible insurance for decades.  [FYI America I think this was the solution to the health care crisis and we missed it – the Government should be providing high deductible catastrophic to everybody.  Routine health services should be subsidized to the degree people don’t skip them, but much of our care should be funded out of our own pockets, leading to competition and cost savings we’ve seen in, for example, the elective surgery sector.]

From what I know as of today families like mine may actually do better to pay the penalty and continue to “self insure” for most health costs.

What are the penalties for not obtaining health insurance from Obamacare?
2014:  $95  or 1% of your income, whichever is higher.
2015:  $325  or 2% of income.
Families 2014:  $285 per household or 1% of income, whichever is greater.
Families 2016  $2,085 per family or 2.5% of income.

More preventive care services will be covered:  mammograms, physical exams, colonoscopies and vaccinations will be fully covered by insurance companies.

Small Company Obamacare issues:
For companies with less than 50 employees the workers must obtain insurance themselves.   Companies with 50 or more full-time employees must start providing health insurance for all workers by 2014 or face penalties.

Entrepreneurs (I’m assuming this means most “sole proprietor” folks and very small businesses) will be able to use new entities (not yet formed) called “state exchanges” to buy health insurance.  These single business people will get a tax credit if annual individual income falls between 100% and 400% of the poverty line, which this year translates to $11,170 and $44,680.    The exchanges, in theory, will offer rates competitive with large group rates.   That said, in my experience large group rates and plans are often no better than individual plans, so I’m not convinced the exchanges will offer much in the way of advantages and may simply become another bureaucratic layer in the system.

Medicare and Medicaid:    It appears to me that folks covered by these programs will remain largely directly unaffected by ObamaCare, though clearly the new system will probably create changes in the way hospitals and doctors allocate resources, time, and innovation.


Stay tuned for more as we all figure this out together!

Alan Turing Google Doodle honors Computing Pioneer

Check out the most complicated Google Doodle of all time here, where the Google Doodle of the day  celebrates the birthday of computer science pioneer Alan Turing.   Turing is reasonably considered a founder of computer science even though he never lived to see anything like the current crop of machines we now find in our homes, businesses, and mobile devices.

The Google Doodle is representing a ‘codebreaker’ sequence.   Turing’s brilliancies in cracking encoded Nazi war memos led to major strategic breakthrough when he cracked the “enigma” code routine, giving the allies access to a treasure trove of strategic information about the Nazi war plans.

The “Turing Test” remains an intriguing part of the quest for general artificial intelligence.  Turing suggested that a major step in development of mechanical intelligence would be a human’s inability to distinguish the machine responses from those of another human.  Most current thinking suggests that a machine could pass the “Turing Test” and NOT be considered artificial intelligence, but Turing’s speculations remain some of the most important computing insights of all time.

Turing’s life was tragic in many ways.  He was gay in a time when the government prosecuted people for “indecency”, and his life was cut short by cyanide poisoning – most likely a suicide or accident – at the age of only 42.

Retire USA blogging team adds National Retirement Expert Debbie Grovum

We are really pleased to have Debbie Grovum join our amazing group of retirement bloggers over at Retire USA.
(SARASOTA, FL) National retirement expert and Sarasota resident Debbie Drinkard Grovum, a Board Certified Coach trained in life, career and retirement coaching and owner of Ageinista, is now a featured blogger for the national website,www.RetireUSA.net and its popular blog (http://retireusa.net/blog). Launched earlier this year, the fast-growing website and blog were created to serve the needs of 79 million baby-boomers researching retirement options and exploring ways to live a successful retirement lifestyle.
Ms. Grovum, a Faculty Counselor Emeritus with more than thirty years of experience, is owner of Ageinista, an innovative company that provides services and resources that promote a vibrant and productive second half of life. She has been trained by and is affiliated with the Purpose Project, a joint project of the University of Minnesota, Center for Spirituality and Healing and Richard Leider of the Inventure Group. A respected national, state, and local speak, Debbie conducts workshops and classes on topics related to vibrant aging, living and working with purpose, creating a beautiful life, thriving in transition and cancer survivorship. Debbie divides her time between Bemidji, MN and Sarasota, FL.
With more than 6,000 pages of retirement information and a growing team of nationally recognized bloggers, RetireUSA (www.RetireUSA.net ) is quickly becoming the go to site for retirement information. With 10,000 baby-boomers reaching retirement age daily, RetireUSA expects site traffic to reach over a million visitors by the end of its first year. It already has more Twitter followers than AARP.
“Because every retiree has their own ideas of what retirement means to them, we knew are blog would have to be wide ranging,” explains RetireUSA partner Karen Darling. “That’s why we decided to pattern our blog after Babble.com a successful site for parents that features numerous bloggers.”
Ms. Grovum is joining a national blogging team that already includes Dr. Robin Miller (Integrative Medicine), Dr. John Kalb (Winning at Aging), Andy Baxter (Senior Fitness), Julia Ruscitti (Insurance Solutions), Mei Wong and Brittany Weller (Care Options), Ellee Celler (Real Estate), Cherie Henry (Senior Housing Options), William Ferry (Photography & Travel) and Tom Smith (Travel).

Grameen Foundation and Grameen Bank – doing global good 24/7

The Grameen Bank and Grameen Foundation have been two of my favorite “do good” projects for some time.   Today I had a chance to talk about their amazing work with Alex Counts, the President of the Foundation he started in 1997 with the help of Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed Yunus, the economist most responsible for the invention and implementation of “microfinance”, a concept that has helped lift millions out of poverty in Bangladesh and other countries.

Unfortunately,  some political conflicts between the Government of Bangladesh and the Grameen Bank  (though NOT the foundation), threaten to disrupt the Bank’s superb poverty-fighting work over the past years.

I’ve written to the Bangladesh Government about this, and would encourage anybody interested in “making things work right” to consider doing the same.    One of the brilliancies of the Yunus economic model has been to reduce the impact of “middle men” and bureaucratic interference, and more restrictions and taxes on the Grameen projects will only lessen their positive impact on the extreme poor in these regions.   Also for those of you who STILL don’t get this, we will be helping to *reduce population pressures* by *elevating living standards* in countries like Bangladesh, so please no comments about how we can’t send aid because it just creates a bigger problem due to more population.    There *are* legitimate issues with aid and they are being addressed by great charities like Grameen Foundation (more on this in future posts), but in the meantime your support for the poor means helping the entire world live healthier and happier.   It’s not just a moral imperative, it’s a practical necessity to fix global problems sooner rather than later.


Letter to  Bangladesh:

Dear Md. Masum Khan,

Thank you for the opportunity to address an issue I am very concerned about, which is the ongoing conflict between the Grameen Bank and the Government of Bangladesh.

I want to express my very strong support of Grameen. Although I’m not a legal expert, it seems to me this conflict is more political than legal, and I’m very concerned that restrictions on Grameen or taking over Grameen Bank would have serious negative consequences in the way the Government of Bangladesh is viewed here in the USA.

As you know it is difficult to convince US leaders to “share” more of our abundant resources and prosperity. Grameen’s stellar global reputation helps citizens like me make the case to our leaders to give more money – not to the bank itself but to help governments alleviate poverty in other ways.

US citizens and leaders are more distrustful of government than in most countries, so government interference or ownership of Grameen would jeopardize the credibility of both the bank and of the government of Bangladesh in the eyes of many Americans and American policy makers.

Like you, I want to see the people of Bangladesh achieve their full, broad potential and enjoy the prosperity we do here in the USA. I sincerely believe Grameen projects are making that happen and hope you’ll consider this as you move forward in your good work for the people of Bangladesh.

Sincerely Yours,

Joseph Hunkins

Oregon, USA

jhunkins@gmail.com or @JoeDuck on Twitter