Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Why Hospital Visits Cost So Much

February 10, 2010

Two articles on opposite sides of the NY Times’ business page yesterday neatly frame the crisis in medical costs. In the first, we learn that HCA, the largest hospital corporation in America, was taken private in 2006. The investors in the deal put up $5 billion and borrowed about $28 billion more. It’s not clear what added value that move brought to patients, but now, instead of paying back all that money, the new owners are paying themselves a fat multi-billion dollar dividend. Who pays for that? Patients, that’s who, in the form of higher prices. (Details are here: Shareholders Deciding a Dividend.)

On the other side of the page we learn that hospitals now spend $35 billion a year on patients who don’t have insurance. Who pays for that? The patients who do. That’s probably one reason why hospital bills are designed to be incomprehensible, with obscene prices like a $75 charge for a 35 cent disposable scalpel (true story). (Details are here: Bills Stalled, Hospitals Fear Rising Unpaid Care.)

I assume that people reading this blog fall into one of three groups: members of a union (whose medical costs go up every year and threaten to detonate every new contract), people who buy their own health insurance (at exorbitant prices because they’re not part of a risk pool) and people who get along without insurance (and end up using the emergency room the rest of us pay for). Is this system working for any of us?

A PPO in Disguise

February 22, 2009

There’s been a lot of debate about the new IATSE contract, especially regarding the requirement, in the third year, that members work 400 rather than 300 hours to get six months of coverage. What has gone almost unnoticed is the change in payment for “out of network” doctors. The plan used to pay 70% of the customary rate (more on that rate in a minute). In the new contract it’ll pay just 50%. That makes it a lot more painful to go out of network. Just a doctor visit and a few tests could set you back hundreds of dollars.

The health plan, which used to pay everything promptly and without argument, has morphed into an amalgam of a de-facto HMO (the Motion Picture and Television Fund clinics), and a PPO, Blue Shield of California.

This works fairly well for routine problems. But in special circumstances I’d like to know that I have the option to use any doctor, at a reasonable price. Many of the best doctors are now refusing to sign up with any insurer. The fact that we’ll only receive 50% of the standard rate for those docs seems at least as problematic to me as the new 400-hour requirement.

And regarding those customary rates? It turns out — big surprise — that they’re rigged. The large insurer, UnitedHealth, also owns Ingenix, the company that works out these numbers for the entire industry. This is an obvious conflict of interest and, sure enough, they have just settled with NY District Attorney Andrew Cuomo, who said the industry had engaged in “a scheme to defraud consumers” by systematically underpaying the nation’s medical bills. Details are in this NY Times article.

Apple at NAB Live Coverage

April 15, 2007

Live text coverage of Apple’s announcement at NAB:

MacRumors Live Coverage

and here, with pictures:

Engadget

Snap

January 14, 2007

SnapWordPress, the service I’m using for this blog, has added a new feature called “Snap.” When you hover over a link a little window opens showing a preview of the linked page. It threw me at first, but after fooling around with it for a few minutes I think it might be pretty cool. If you don’t like it, you can turn it off via the options button at the top right of a Snap window.

Starting Up

July 6, 2006

Over the years, I’ve used all kinds of editing systems, from film to the early tape-based non-linear systems, to Avid on ABVB, Meridien and Adrenaline.

In the last month or so, I took a two-day Final Cut Pro refresher class, and almost back to back, spent two days playing with a late beta of Avid Adrenaline HD v2.5. So I’ve got a pretty up to date sense of what both manufacturers are offering. I’ve also been advising a friend about buying a system for cutting $3 million feature films in hi def. And, starting next week, I’ll be cutting a feature using Avid’s Express Pro. All in all, this seems like a great time to start this blog. The key technology trends are laid out in front of us:

  • Low cost, software only editing systems grow up.
  • The internet comes into its own as a distribution medium for video.
  • HD starts to look like the preferred format for “offline” work.
  • Avid and Final Cut continue to compete with each other.

I find these trends interesting on their own, but the bigger picture is how they affect people — both media professionals and average people at home. I plan to talk about all of that in these pages.