Friday, September 12, 2008

Dumb, good and green

Fairness: John McCain's bridge to distractions doesn't mean the Barack Obama campaign is forever on the high ground of hardball politics. Obama launched a new attack ad Friday claiming McCain is a computer illiterate. The ad showcases unflattering footage of McCain at a hearing in the 1980s wearing giant glasses, an out-of-style suit, intertwined with shots of a disco ball, clunky phone, outdated computer and a Rubik's Cube. "He admits he still doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an email, still doesn't understand the economy..." the ad voiceover says. Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said the ad was not making issue of the 72-year-old McCain's age but a visual description of Obama's acceptance speech that McCain "just doesn't get it." While the ad is accurate -- which McCain's "lipstick on a pig" wasn't -- it doesn't elevate the discourse on substantive issues. Oh, Obama's younger constituency may be titillated and chuckle over it. But, it doesn't mean anything. Computer literacy does not a president make.

Spanked: The California Department of Insurance has negotiated a $3.6 million settlement with Health Net, Inc., an HMO provider, for maliciously dropping 926 policyholders because they got sick. Health Net also agreed to pay up to $14 million reimbursement to those re-instated clients. Health Net and other HMOs are notorious for asking complicated questions on applications and then fact check only after a claim has been filed. Critics say examiners are awarded bonuses when they find purported omissions of a symptom or condition as an excuse to drop coverage. This is an example of government oversight and regulatory powers at its best. Kudos to the California Department of Insurance and the state Department of Managed Health Care. In full disclosure, I'm a Health Net policyholder only because I cannot afford higher premiums charged by non-HMOs. My personal experience is their providers show more interest in the bottom line than the welfare of patients. In my case, Health Net approved my primary care physician's request to replace batteries in my power wheel chair. Six providers eventually assigned to do the job either refused or placed obstacles in the process, among others, claiming Medi-Cal was the responsible paying party. I fought them each and every step, saying the policy stipulated my share was 15% of the total repair cost. After six weeks, I gave up in frustration and used my federal stimulus check to pay for the total bill -- $315.40. They won that war of attrition. They're good at it, from top to bottom. The system sucks.

Palin Pollution: A day before Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was tapped for vice president by John McCain, she wrote a letter to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asking he veto a bill which would charge fees to reduce pollution at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Palin argued that the fees would hurt the economies of both states. The $60 fee generating about $400 million annually would be assessed for each 40-foot container moved at the two ports and in Oakland which combined move more than 40% of the nation's goods. Palin said in the letter 90% of Alaskan goods are imported in containers. Alaskans already are overburdened with the high costs of goods and the pollution fees would only increase them, she said. Schwarzenegger is signing no new bills until the state budget is approved. While Palin's point is commendable for Alaskans, it shows little concern for the health and welfare of Californians breathing toxic air. This is a cost/benefit ratio issue that will be fought until America becomes energy independent.

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