Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Slivers of Sustenance

Writing this blog is hard work and it has seemed to get harder lately.

There is too much depressing news about our debt, our decline as a world power, deaths of great men (Jeremiah Denton to name one recently), the depreciation of our currency, demographic challenges and the Democrat we have in The White House.

It has been increasingly difficult to face these facts and write compelling copy that is worth your time to read what I have to say.

It also difficult when I see how few do read what I am writing.

Since I started writing BeeLine 3 years and month ago I have published 463 blog posts.  To date, BeeLine has about 45,000 views meaning that the average post is lucky to get read by fewer than 100 people.  That is still pretty amazing considering that there is no marketing done for the site.  All of those reader views have come about from word-of-mouth endorsements from you who have passed a post or a link on to someone.  My sincere thanks for all that you have done to support BeeLine.

However, when I visit other popular blog sites and I see an average of 100 comments on a post it is easy to question my sanity in writing at all.  On the other hand, when I consider that there are an estimated 152 million total blogs on the internet, my readership is probably better than most.

The bottom line is that a lot of the reward for writing this blog has to come from within.  It has to come from the self-satisfaction that I get from realizing that I was ahead of the curve on something, or put something in a perspective or context that was unique, or took a piece of data and told a bigger story about what it really means.  It may just come from connecting some dots that others may have missed.

I came across a couple items in the news today that gave me that small sense of satisfaction.  Mere slivers of sustenance for my self-esteem.

Credit: blueivy.blogpsot.com

The first came in a story about Obamacare and a recent survey by Bankrate.com that found that 41 percent of those did not have health insurance said they planned to stay uninsured because they think that health insurance is too costly.

This is what I wrote about Obamacare's fundamental flaw on getting the uninsured to buy health care insurance last year.

It is incredibly difficult to get people to pay the full cost of healthcare coverage.  In fact, study after study shows that most people will only pay up to 20% of the real cost of the coverage.  That is the price at which people believe it is a "fair value". That is why many employer plans charge employees around 20% of the full cost and employer pays the rest.  That is why Medicare Part B premium costs are set at 20% of the full cost and the taxpayers pay the rest.
Why is this?
The reality is that most people will have very little in healthcare costs in a given year. A handful of people will have enormous costs. A few will have very large costs. The majority will have almost no costs.
The bottom half of the entire population only consumed 2.9% of all personal health care spending in 2009. The top half consumed the other 97.1%.
Out of almost $1.3 trillion in personal health care spending, only $36 billion was spent on those below the 50th percentile. The rest was spent on those above the 50th percentile.
The top 1% of healthcare spenders accounted for over 20% of all spending.
The top 5% accounted for almost half of all spending.
That is why most people will gamble on healthcare insurance if left to their own devices. Especially if they have lower incomes or have very little in assets. Most people do not have much in health care costs (particularly the young) and they know it. They will simply not part with their money today for the chance that they might get sick tomorrow. That is basic human nature. Live for today and think about that other stuff tomorrow.  Especially if you know that if you walk into an emergency room it is the law of the land that you must be treated without regard to your ability to pay.
Sure, there are subsidies in Obamacare to buy coverage but for most people they are not anywhere close to paying 80% of the cost.

The Obamacare model is further flawed by setting the individual mandate penalty  tax at such a miniscule amount (the higher of 1% of pay or $95) to be laughable.  Even worse, that tax is not even collected (except for those who pay estimated taxes) until next year.

If they were really serious about incentivizing people to sign up for Obamacare, the tax should be collected in full on April 15, 2014!  The March 31 deadline would have meant something then.  We can already see it means nothing.  And I believe it is unlikely that many who did not enroll for health insurance coverage will ever pay a tax or penalty for failing to do so.

I don't like anything about the way Obamacare was developed or passed into law.  However, if you are going to pass a law, you should at least establish a framework that insures that it will work.

The second sliver of sustenance came in the story I read today about Kwasi Enin, a high school student on Long Island, who applied to and was accepted at all eight Ivy League schools for admission this Fall.

Kwasi is obviously a smart and talented young man to be accepted at all eight schools. Considering the vagaries of the admission process at these competitive schools that is akin to winning Warren Buffett's NCAA Basketball Bracket Challenge.

Wait, did I say talented?

What did I say was the surer path to success in my first post of this year? Possessing great talent or having a great work ethic?

Remember the story about Laszlo Polgar and his three daughters, Susan, Sofia and Judit?  Each became Chess Grandmasters because Polgar set them on the path and they got there through persistence, practice and hard work.

What most people call talent is really just hard work.  It is about toiling and training for long hours. Practice, practice, practice. Nothing more.
Extensive studies have shown that the difference between an expert and you is nothing more than a life-long persistence of deliberate effort and purposeful practice to improve performance.  
What caught my eye in the story about Kwasi was the fact that his father, a nurse, said that he had raised Kwasi (and his sister) to strive for excellence.

"We are very proud of him," he said. "He's an amazing kid. He's very humble. He's been trained to be a high achiever right from when he was a kid. We have been encouraging him to be an all-around student. So far, he has proved himself." (my emphasis)
I think he has.  He has also has further proved Laszlo Polgar's theory that children have extraordinary potential if we take the trouble to encourage them, set high expectations and support them in their efforts.

He has also motivated me to write a post that allows me to end on a high note for once.  Thank you, Kwasi!


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