Archive for March, 2008

Dear Prized Customer

I received a notice from an organization that I could save some money on car insurance. What I liked best was that the letter was personalized, just for me!

I have included an image of the entire front of the letter, and then I have highlighted the personalized part.

full letter

close-up of personalized section

For those who can’t see the image, it says “Mr. Sample… you could save $346 a year or more on auto insurance”. However, I am not Mr. Sample; that is not my name.

“A {good} name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold”
– Proverbs 22:1

Preparing for an HSA

The Health Savings Plans (HSAs) that have recently become popular (because they only recently were passed into law) do have some problems. Maybe not problems…more like things that steepen the learning curve. These are some differences from the traditional HMO/PPO that people should know.

The plan (or insurance company or provider or etc.) does not pay for anything anymore. You pay. Under traditional plans, you would have some medical treatment or pick up a prescription and pay either nothing or a small co-pay. The medical service provider would then bill the insurance company who would then pay it. The insurance company may or may not have let you know what the cost was, and you may or may not have had to pay a portion of it.

Now, with an HSA, the medical service provider bills the insurance company, which tells the service provider to bill you for the service. You get a bill for the full amount and are responsible to send them a check or use your HSA-provided debit card to pay for items that need to be paid at time of service. All the insurance company does is track your expenses and negotiate lower rates for you. After a certain point though (“the bridge”), the insurance company does start acting more like a traditional insurance company.

Before, with a traditional plan, if it said that you had coverage, you had that coverage from day one. Now, with an HSA, you have coverage but the money in your plan is not there right away. For example, if your company’s plan states that you will have $1600 of coverage from your pre-tax contributions for the year, you do not get $1600 at the start of the year. The company can divide it and give you only $400 per quarter.

I think that is the real draw for company’s to push HSAs for their employees – it helps manage their cash flow. If employees have significant health-care charges early in the year, now the employee is responsible for the difference. You have $750 of medical expenses but only $400 in the account, then you pay the extra $350 out of your pocket. You can reimburse yourself from the account once it gets the next installment, such as the next quarter. But the employee is now handling the float. The company’s cash flow is more even and the burden of what is effectively a small loan is passed to the employee.

“if he does not lend {money} on interest or take increase, {if} he keeps his hand from iniquity {and} executes true justice between man and man, {if} he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully– he is righteous {and} will surely live,” declares the Lord GOD.”
– Ezekiel 18:8-9

Leave Well Enough Alone

A mom near Chicago was charged with child endangerment for not leaving the child out of her sight. Thankfully, charges have been dropped. Still, she should never have been arrested. The Crestwood police department seems to have shot first and asked questions later.

Leaving a sleeping 2-year-old in a car instead of taking her into sleet is reasonable. Staying within 30 feet (and sight) of the car adds to the reasonableness. Locking the car also helps. What exactly was the danger? Where was the abuse? What has caused more harm to the family and therefore to the child – being left in a car for a couple of minutes or having the mother arrested and taken away from not only that child but also the others? Which is in the best interest of the child – having the mother nearby while sleeping peacefully or having the mother go to court and being subjected to a bunch of scrutiny and stress?

Treffly Coyne’s actions did not warrant such a harsh treatment from the community service officer – such micro-managing of parents for something that is not a problem. The state of Illinois is providing training for people who are expected to report child abuse. You are to notify DCFS when you notice that someone has “put the child at risk of physical injury”. That law must be read to include the word “reasonable” in front of “risk”, otherwise, no one could do anything with his children. What is more likely to cause physical injury – sitting in a locked car or driving down the 2-lane road to get to the parking lot? Simply putting the child in the car and driving somewhere causes the child to be at risk of physical injury. You wouldn’t expect all parents to stop driving, would you? You couldn’t even take your kids to Cedar Point.

The problem is that “reasonable” is subjective. And subjective laws are open to misinterpretation and differences of opinion. I’m sure a jury full of parents would have found her innocent if the case had gone to trial, but I am glad the prosecutors dropped all charges.

And as for the other children, the ones that are old enough to remember this event, the ones that were left standing in the sleet while their mother was being arrested, what effect did this have on them? Was being left in the cold, wet winter in their best interest? Will they ever trust a police officer again? “Find a police officer if you are in trouble. He is there to help you.” They won’t believe that for a while.

Yes, the community service officer was doing an officer’s job. In the light of recent tragedies involving children in cars, the officer should have investigated. If you see a child locked in a car, check to see if a parent is around. But the key word is investigate, not prosecute. If there is no imminent danger (child is warm, breathing, etc.) then let the family life continue as it was. Do some more investigating in the background if necessary, then bring charges if something is apparent. But don’t interrupt the family life first in order to protect the child from nothing.

A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding, {But} he who hates unjust gain will prolong {his} days.

Proverbs 28:16

Engineering in Advertising

Audi has an ad campaign entitled “Truth in Engineering”. I find that to be a poorly-named theme. It implies that there can be lies in engineering. If there are lies or falsehoods in the product, then it is not engineering – it’s marketing or management or something else.

Engineering is all about finding the best design for the product. Apparently the campaign has something to do with how well the car handles and communicates the road conditions to the driver. A more appropriate name could be “Truth through Engineering” or “Truth by Engineering”, but perhaps that wasn’t catchy enough.

“and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
– John 8:32

Signs, Signs

One of my favorite road signs that I see on some of my travels is the following:

Seven Mile Road sign

There is an intersection and a stop sign, and you have your choice of Seven Mile Rd. or Seven Mile Rd.

“For those who guide this people are leading {them} astray; And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion.”
– Isaiah 9:16

Teutonic Destroyers

I heard news on the radio the other day that a church was vandalized in Alabama. Vandalism, and even church vandalism, is nothing new. What caught my attention were the messages that the perpetrators left, stating that there is no God.

They just highlighted the problems that come about by not believing in God. I think that not only will you live longer by believing in God (general statement and not a guarantee for your particular situation), you will live better (same disclaimer, plus the clarification that this “better” is along the lines of kindler and gentler – not “better” as in comfort and luxury).

Why were those vandals, whom police suspect are teens, so hostile? Was that behavior caused by belief in God (e.g. they went to church but had a bad experience with it)? Or is that behavior that could have been prevented by belief in God? I know it is not representative of atheists in general, but who is going to lead a better life: someone who knows he is accountable for his actions during his life or someone who thinks he is not?

The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.

Psalm 14:1

The What Awards?

Most people have probably forgotten about the Oscars by now, so it is time for me to post something about it. The Academy Awards (AKA the Oscars) are becoming increasingly irrelevant for the general population. The Academy voters, along with critics in general, are selecting movies using their own odd criteria. And those criteria are more along the lines of esoteric “art” or the right social issue – not necessarily what makes a movie a good movie.

Judging anything is subjective, and movies are no exception. So there is bound to be some level of disagreement with the selections. But most of the movies chosen are not popular movies, meaning that most people would rather see other movies. Doesn’t that mean that there are better movies than those which won Oscars?

I agree with Molière, in his Critique of the School for Wives, when he says that if we followed the same philosophy as movies in other areas of life, such as food, then we wouldn’t know whether to enjoy the meals we ate until we consulted a food critic. “That’s like a man who might find a sauce delicious, and who would then try to find out if it was good by looking it up in Le Cuisinier français.” He argues that the opinions of the general public is more important that those of critics. Why do the movie studios produce movies – for the critics? No, they produce movies to make money, which means selling tickets, which means that the public should be more important than the critics. Molière produce his play in 1663, so this disconnect between critics and audiences has been around for at least a few hundred years.

I find that I am more likely to trust people I know than a critic whom I don’t know. The critic may provide some useful information in his description of a movie, but I don’t trust a simple rating, such as 3 stars or 2 and a half roses or 4 tomatoes. What I do want to know in a movie review, but most don’t provide, is what level of what objectionable content there is. To a critic, it seems there is no objectionable content. I like the reviews in World Magazine, which uses Kids in Mind.

I think many people fall into the same category as I – they know that the Academy selects movies that they’ll never watch. The Academy awards movies in order to promote them. It is just a big advertisement and marketing campaign. “We know you don’t care much about this movie and no one you know has seen it, but look at all the accolades it has received. With all this publicity, it must be a good movie!”

“For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”
– 2 Peter 2:18-19