Saturday, September 17, 2016

The State of the Canadian Judiciary?

Recent news stories have documented a Canadian judge asking a rape victim why she could't "just keep [her] knees together." While the judge has been excoriated and investigated for the remark, apparently missing from the headlines is the judge's statement that his knowledge of Canadian law was "non-existent." What does this say about the Canadian government and judiciary? Apparently knowledge of the law is not needed to become a judge. And apparently at least one judge doesn't even have the sense to take a few minutes to read up on the law before trying a case.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Do as we say, not as we do

Medical insurance is one of the most highly regulated products sold on the market today, even before Obamacare added a host of new rules. One of the rules for private medical insurance (to the best of my knowledge) is that all plans have an annual out of pocket limit. This means if your medical costs are very high there is still a limit to how much you pay for medical costs. This out of pocket limit varies from about $6000 to $14000 depending on single, married, dependents, and the type of policy. But regardless of the type of policy, they all have an out of pocket limit.

So if you are working and your employer provides health insurance, there is a limit to the amount of money you can pay for medical and prescription costs. Most people don't hit this limit (or come close), but it's there.

However, guess what happens when you hit 65 and switch to Medicare? Medicare Part B pays 80% of charges after a fairly low deductible. However, Medicare Part B (non-hospital medical care) has no out of pocket limit. Medicare Part D (prescriptions) switches you to "catastrophic coverage" once your drug costs are over the "coverage gap" (or donut hole). But apparently there's no out of pocket limit, Medicare's web site says you pay a "small" copayment or coinsurance amount.

So the government tells private insurers that they cannot require customers to pay more than a certain amount out of pocket each year, but the government's own insurance plan has no maximum.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Limits of cyber security

A couple months ago I received an email from Social Security stating that they were enhancing online security. In the future in addition to logging in with a user name and password a one time code sent by text message would be required.

I thought at the time this was going to be a problem. It requires that anybody with an online Social Security account also have a cell phone and know how to receive a text message. This for an agency which primarily deals with older Americans who are less likely to be proficient in multiple new technologies.

Sure enough, I received a new email the other day. There were too many problems with the new text message requirement so Social Security is backing it out. The text message authentication now an option which they encourage users to enable.

As it is, Social Security's online rules don't make sense. Most people don't need to frequently log into Social Security. Those younger than retirement age should log in once a year to check their earnings record. Those who have retired still don't need to log in often. Social Security payments are paid by direct deposit and the related tax statement is sent by postal mail.

So given that most people should lot into Social Security once a year, what has been the Social Security policy for at least the last 5 years or so? Passwords expire every 6 months. If one logs in once a year, one must change the Social Security password every login.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The reality of police work and interpretation of the law.

A recent news story shows the reality of how the law is applied.

A school bus driver crashed her bus, which rolled on its side. She failed a sobriety test, said she was on a number of prescription drugs, so was charged with DUI. However, a later review disagreed with the sobriety test result, so the blood test which was also done (and presumably showed impairment) was inadmissible. So the DUI charge goes away.

The driver was also charged with vehicular assault. Vehicular assault basically means that somebody is injured due to a person's poor driving, so just about any accident with a resulting injury could be vehicular assault.

Finally, the driver was charged with child abuse. My first reaction was "what?". We normally think of child abuse in terms of malnourishment, imprisonment, beating, etc. Here an accident results in a child abuse charge. But looking up the law, it's correct. If any child is injured due to an action taken by another person, that's child abuse. It's interesting there are no restriction on the abuser -- if one child hits another, that's child abuse. In Little League if the pitcher unintentionally hits a batter or a player is hit by a batted ball, technically that could result in a child abuse charge.

As a rule, nobody is going to charge a little league player with child abuse (though it wouldn't surprise me if it's happened someplace, sometime). Why such a broadly written law? After a little thought it seems that the law is written on the assumption that the police and prosecutors will use discretion. Writing a narrowly defined law makes it easier for an abuser to get off by finding a loophole. Colorado's very broad law does not depend on intent, relationship of abused and abuser, or other rules. Writing a narrowly defined law would, especially if loopholes were found, easily turn the law into a very long list of what is and is not abuse. Instead, define the law broadly and depend on authorities to recognize what injuries constitute abuse.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Misleading headlines and "negotiating funding"

Britain's National Health Service is in the news again. An article in The Telegraph is headlined "Obese patients and smokers banned from routine surgery  in 'most severe ever' rationing in the NHS."

Yet reading the article, while it talks about limiting surgery for smokers and the obese, the text speaks of the future -- "will be", "are going to", etc.

What's really happening? Note that, while waiting lists are routine in Britain, these draconian changes apparently haven't gone into effect. Instead, this looks like part of the ongoing game of chicken between the government (which wants to spend less) and medical providers (who want more money).

It looks very much like reports I see late every autumn in the United States as insurers, pharmacies, and medical providers negotiate rates for the next year. This sometimes involves a letter from the insurer or the hospital which basically says the other side is unreasonable and hopes patients will call and complain.

So the NHS may reduce the medical care provided to smokers and obese patients, or the government might find more money. Or the threat may not actually happen because it was just a negotiating ploy.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Violating political stereotypes

I just saw a report on political donations in Colorado this year. The largest donor is giving to the Democrats (most to a group supporting Hillary Clinton). Another doner is giving to conservative PACs, but one third as much.

Contrary to stereotype, the big money is going to the Democrats.

In addition, the donor to the Democrats is from Fort Collins, which is generally conservative politically. And the conservative donor is from Boulder, normally ultra left wing.

So much for geographical stereotypes.