Looking at Medical Costs

Susan Handelsman offers this advice:

How to protect yourself and others from your health insurance, hospital, and Congress

Want to use time off productively?

Learn about the deliberately overpriced, inefficient and destructive (to patients and providers)  healthcare system that we all have allowed to take complete power over most of  our lives and deaths.

Health insurance companies can raise profits one way only: increase their revenues (not, as one might assume, by decreasing expenditures to providers).

Medical Loss Ratio (MLS) limits profits and administration to 20% of revenues (premiums paid by clients or government).

Therefore, the more insurance companies pay out, the more they are allowed by law to earn in profits.

There are virtually no regulators allowed to see insurers’ cost information let alone regulate it (because most health insurance revenues are now generated by their new RISK-FREE status as third-party benefit administrators, who earn monthly fees from government and employers to administrate– and set reimbursement rates, affecting co-pays!!–for most of the healthcare services provided in this country).

Competition?

Not allowed.

Stark Laws tie doctors hands from offering far more reasonably-priced competitive services,  and politically controlled Certificates of Need are required in Illinois to protect any threat to hospital monopoly power.

Meanwhile, Federal Anti-Kickback Laws have a safe-harbor provision for GPOs (group purchasing organizations) and to a certain degree PBMs (pharmacy benefit managers).

PBMs and GPOs are paid according to the same incentives as private health insurance companies: the higher the cash flow  the higher their profits.

There is zero incentive for these middlemen to lower costs to the end users.

Accordingly, they develop formularies and deal with exclusive providers based upon how big their personal kickback will be. 

As we are now seeing, the monopolistic destruction of possible competitors producing hospital commodities like masks or saline bags has a murderous effect when a pandemic emergency occurs.

Who is to blame and what can we do about it?

We, the patients are to blame.

We don’t pay attention and allow ourselves to be divided along nonsensical partisan political lines…when there is really only ONE political party protecting this freakshow now and it is a party to which we taxpayers and human bodies seeking healthcare  are not invited, we are on the menu.

What can we do now?

1. EVERY time you get a prescription for a drug, call around to at least 3 pharmacies for price comparisons (cash payer price, vs. GoodRx price, vs your co-pay with your particular ‘insurance’).Costco is often the lowest priced for cash payers. The pharmacists don’t like it? Too bad. They can easily POST PRICES ONLINE as alternative. They leave us no other option.

If you feel the risk is warranted, buy medications overseas. Many are not manufactured here: producers in Ireland sell the identical product to USA and Canada (although in Canada at less than half the price).What are the risks? You may be the test case for Federal prosecution forbidding Americans who cannot afford medication in America to import it. You may be buying adulterated, or counterfeit medications. You may not be able to sue if you have an adverse reaction to your medications. The risks are profound but so are the alternatives (not being able to afford medications).

2. EVERY time you are prescribed a test (radiology  imaging, serum testing) call around  for price comparisons (cash payer price at hospital, your insurance co-pay at your hospital, independent MRI and blood testing labs, a doctors office). Try to NEVER go to a hospital for an elective diagnostic test as your co-pay will frequently be significantly higher than your cash price at an independent testing center.

3. EDUCATE yourself online, about this healthcare cost crisis so devastating to so many of your fellow Americans. Twatting that you hate Trump or Pelosi does not fulfill anyone’s civic duty. If you cannot make the effort to learn what is happening, at least refrain from voting for predatory sociopaths who enabled the current circumstances and who now fight fiercely to defend it from disruption.

http://truecostofhealthcare.org/  (David Belk M.D.)

https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2017spring/how-health-insurance-changed-from-protecting-patients-to-seeking-profit.html  From An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back by Elisabeth Rosenthal, published by Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

Jack Franks Robo-Calls

Just in from reader “Hopeful Visitor”:

“Just got a robo call from Jack D Frank’s campaigning again spending our money on robocalls with information that has been out there time and time again.

“He ends his message with “stay safe” as though he really cares about anything but his own political future.

“Just watch his press releases, his comments.

“He’ll repeat the limited vocabulary of JB.

“Listen for the words ‘furious’; and throw out the word ‘folks’; they’re not one of us they’re not one of the guys; they are phonies who see nothing but ambition and running Illinois and McHenry County into the ground.

“Just take little advice mister and do some “social distancing” (which doesn’t seem to be in your playbook) and get the heck out of McHenry County.”

= = = = =

Who paid for the robo-call?

Republicans Get Requesred State Income Tax Delay

From Governor JB Pritzker:

Senator Dan McConchie commented,

“I want to thank the Governor for heeding our call to extend the income-tax filing deadline. This move will provide needed relief to taxpayers throughout the state of Illinois at this difficult time and bring the state’s deadline in line with that of the federal government. This action will help our residents maintain needed social-distancing and provide financial relief that people can feel immediately.”

State Senator Craig Wilcox added,

“I’m pleased the Governor acted on the Senate Republican’s request to extend the state income tax filing and payment deadline during this unprecedented time of challenge for citizens of Illinois and the nation.

“The Federal government recently moved to delay the Federal tax filing deadline, and our Caucus felt it was only fair and considerate to also delay the state’s tax deadline to the same July 15, 2020 date.

“The delay will help Illinois citizens maintain the recommended social-distancing practices while also easing their concerns about taxes owed. Extending the deadline is a simple act, but it will make a big difference for many people.”

= = = = =

It’s going to be interesting to see the increase in unpaid bills after April 15th.

CL South High School Students Present Conditions in Angola in Cooperation with RISE International

One of my wife’s and my favorite charities is RISE International.

It builds schools in Angola, where founder Andrew Cole went to missionary school before the revolution.

His wife Lynn Cole carried on after her husband died.

I first got interested in 2007 when told of how the organization was building schools for $12,500 while Oprah Winfrey was spending $40 million to construction one in South Africa.

The schools were built by local residents out of mud bricks then.

They cost more now and are now constructed with concrete blocks.

Sites of school construction since 2017.

RISE provides the financing, along with ExxonMobil and Educate A Child.

Funds contributed earn a 50-50 match up to $50 from the latter organization through Friday.

In cooperation with RISE, students at South High School in Crystal Lake have exhibited what life in Angola looks like for the last two years.

CLSHS Poster for RISE.

RISE reports in an email,

Diets were compared.

“Students at Crystal Lake South hosted their 2nd Walk Through Africa during lunch periods on 2/28.

Second grade school supplies were compared.

“They raised awareness and money to give kids in Angola access to education,”

“Thank you!”

400 pupil school in Vianja.

There are now 188 schools which have been financed by RISE International which educate over 135,000 children.

Public Health or Politics?

Ever see a mass mailing from a President?

I have not until today when the following postcard with President Trump’s prominently featured arrived in our mailbox.

The same advice President Donald Trump gives in TV appearances, but up close and almost personal.

Crystal Lake Manor Man Arrested for Sexually Assaulting Child in His Home

From the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department:

Crystal Lake Man Arrested for Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault

Jonathan Gomes

Jonathan Gomes, 33, of Crystal Lake, was arrested Tuesday, March 24, 2020 and charged with three counts of Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault of a Child.

On Thursday, March 19, 2020, a concerned parent made a report with the Huntley Police Department.

During their investigation, the Huntley Police Department learned that the incidents had occurred at a residence in the 7400 block of Pingree Rd in Crystal Lake [Manor], which is in the jurisdiction of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office.

An investigation was initiated by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division, which revealed that Gomes had abused a minor in his household.

Gomes was subsequently arrested for three counts of Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault and was transported to the McHenry County Correctional Facility.

The investigation is ongoing and anyone with additional information should contact the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division at (815) 334-4750, McHenry County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-762-STOP (7867) or the Sheriff’s Office tip line: TipLine@mchenrycountyil.gov

The charges against this individual are merely allegations against him. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

DeWitte Calls for State Income Tax Deadline & Minimum Wage Hike Delay

From State Senator Don DeWitrte:

DeWitte urges income tax extension and delay to minimum wage increase

SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Donald DeWitte (R-St Charles) is urging Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker to extend the state tax filing deadline and to consider postponing the upcoming minimum wage increase.

The current deadline to file state income tax is April 15. Recently, the federal government has announced that they would be extending the federal income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15.

“Given that the federal government has already extended the income tax filing deadline, I firmly believe Illinois should follow suit.” Said Sen. DeWitte.

“The Governor must address the state’s tax filing extension issue to avoid tax filing confusion for our taxpayers and to provide relief during this ongoing health crisis.”

Meanwhile, the next increase in the minimum wage is scheduled to take place this summer on July 1.

“Our governor should also be considering postponing the next scheduled increase in the minimum wage,” said Sen. DeWitte.

“If allowed to take effect, Illinois’ business community will have yet another burden placed on their shoulders despite the daily challenges and struggles brought on by the current COVID-19 health crisis.”

The first wave of minimum wage increases took effect on Jan. 1, increasing the wage from $8.25 an hour to $9.25 an hour.

“We must not make the recovery from this health crisis, any harder than it will already be on our residents and business owners in Illinois,” said DeWitte.

McHenry Parks Open

From McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett:

Message from Mayor Wayne Jett

McHenry Parks Remain Open with Restrictions

Spring Fever has new meaning this year! Yesterday was the first nice day in McHenry since the Stay at Home Order went into effect. 

With temperatures breaking 50 degrees McHenry saw their fair share of residents out enjoying Mother Nature’s sign that Spring is Coming! 

McHenry has chosen to keep their parks open at this time so long as everyone can follow the below requirements. 

Please remember that we are monitoring all aspects of COVID-19 here in McHenry and McHenry County, so if the situation dictates it, further park restrictions may be enacted at a later time. 

Until then enjoy our outdoor space but please;

  1. Use strong social distancing practices (6 feet or more), and
  2. Limit group gatherings in parks to 10 people or less, and
  3. Follow the no playground rule.

Today City staff will install small signs in and around our parks and playgrounds reminding everyone of these three rules.  Your support with following the outdoor activity rules associated with the Stay at Home Order is what will allows us to keep our parks open.

Stay Safe, take care of your families and support our community!

IL-14: Post-Election Message from Anthony Catella

From former 14th District Republican congressional candidate Anthony Catella:

Anthony Catella

Well, Catella for Congress and Catalina for Congress.

When I first met Catalina on the campaign trail I introduced myself by saying, “Catalina for Congress, meet Catella for Congress.”

I am sure it was a good run for her as I know it was for me.

Thanks Cal for posting my letter.

In politics it takes all kinds and one meets all kinds.

While I like everyone, not everyone will always agree but I will always be good natured.

I remember in High School 33 years ago when I first started taking leadership and speaking roles, I was concerned that some of my friends would not understand and make fun of me, and my uncle told me this is why most of the population do not step forward to be leaders because of the craven fear of being great.

So 33 years later I spent the better half of a year campaigning for the US Congress.

And behold, a fellow HS classmate of mine saw my website and emailed me to say He always knew I had it in me.

Thanks old friend.

As for the future I have faith in Anthony Catella, I have faith in Illinios, I have faith in America because I have faith in God.

Thank you and many blessings to you all!

Tic TOC TIC TOC!

Midway Airport Virtually Empty After What May Have Been the Last In-Bound Southwest Airlines Flight Yesterday

With Southwest Airlines having shut down most of its flights out of and into Midway Airport, the place is empty.

Here are a couple of shots from mid-afternoon yesterday.

The passenger may have been on the last Southwest flight to arrive.

Midway Airport 3-24-20
Midway Airport 3-24-20
Midway Airport 3-24-20

The floor is certainly shiny.

LITH Reminds Residents of What’s Open and What’s Closed

From the Village of Lake in the Hills:

Playgrounds, Basketball/Tennis/Volleyball Courts, and Skate Parks are Closed

We know you’re eager to get out and about, but unfortunately, please keep in mind that not all of the Village’s facilities are currently open. In an effort to protect public health, as well as remain in compliance with the Stay-at-Home order, the following are closed to the public through April 7:

  • Playgrounds
  • Basketball courts
  • Tennis courts
  • Volleyball courts
  • Skate parks

However, the Bark Park, trails, bike paths, and open spaces remain available for outdoor activity. Please visit www.lith.org/coronavirus for more information on the stay-at-home order and how it affects you. 

McHenry County Sees First Coronavirus Death

From the McHenry County Health Department:

Crystal Lake Man Dies, Tested Positive for COVID-19

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Department of Health and the McHenry County Coroner’s Office has confirmed a death of a 70 year old Crystal Lake man who tested positive for COVID-19.

“Our hearts go out to this family at their time of loss,” said Public Health Administrator Melissa Adamson. “The health and safety of our community is our number one priority.” We are working with the Coroner’s Office to determine this man’s cause of death. 

At this time, there are 25 confirmed cases in McHenry County. Susan Karras, Director of Public Health Nursing, states that she expects the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to increase as the virus continues to spread. To help protect your family and community she suggests:

  • Stay home
  • When you are not ill and must go out, practice social distancing of 6 feet or more
  • Call your healthcare provider if you are sick and your symptoms are worsening
  • Check in with those greater than 60 years of age and those with chronic medical conditions

For more information please visit Coronavirus.Illinois.gov or mcdh.info.  For general questions about COVID-19, call the IDPH hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email dph.sick@illinois.gov.

The Latest on Government Efforts to Contain Coronavirus

From the JB Pritzker Administration:

Gov. Pritzker Lays Out Measures to Increase Testing, Hospital Capacity in Preparation for Additional Need

Chicago — As the state continues to build on its robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for increased demand across the state’s health care system, Governor JB Pritzker provided an update on the state’s current testing and hospital capacity and laid out measures to increase that capacity to meet the anticipated need in the coming weeks.
 
“We’re using a two-pronged approach to make sure a worst-case scenario does not become our reality,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “First, we put in place protective measures to suppress the spread, like our stay at home order, limits on gatherings and social distancing guidelines. Second, we are working to increase our health care capacity statewide so that when we do arrive at our next phase — which should not be our worst-case scenario but will be a point where hospitalizations significantly increase — we have the capacity to meet that need.”

TESTING CAPACITY

Illinois was among the first states to test for COVID-19 in state-managed labs, beginning with the capacity to run 50 tests a day in February and since expanding to three state labs running 600 tests a day.

The Illinois National Guard (ILNG) has also opened the state’s first drive-thru COVID-19 testing site on the northwest side of Chicago, adding 250 tests a day to the state’s capacity. The site is located at 6959 W. Forest Preserve Road in Chicago, opening at 9 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m. daily, unless testing capacity is met earlier in the day. More than 130 Illinois National Guardsmen are currently supporting the state’s response to COVID-19.

“The Illinois National Guard is proud to lend a helping hand as part of the overall state team fighting against this deadly virus,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Neely, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. “Our National Guard members come from every part of Illinois. We are your friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers; we are part of your communities. I couldn’t be more proud of these patriotic men and women who have made the commitment to defend and serve our state and nation.”

In addition, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has opened three sites with their private partners throughout the Chicago suburbs – one in Cook County and two in Will County. Each has the capacity to run nearly a 100 tests a day, and up to 250 with expanded staffing. These testing sites are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the following locations:

• Walmart: 137 East North Avenue, Northlake
• Walmart: 2424 West Jefferson, Joliet
• Walgreens: 695 West Boughton Road, Bolingbrook

All four of the mobile testing sites operate under U.S. HHS criteria which prioritizes health care workers and first responders. As availability allows, testing criteria may be expanded beyond this initial pilot program.

Finally, there are four commercial labs and 15 hospital labs operating across the state, which average about 1,500 tests per day. IDPH continues to work with hospitals to stand up their own labs, providing positive specimens to hospitals for validation so they can come online faster.

Several existing hospital labs are building out their capacity and are within two weeks expected to provide additional 2,805 tests a day, totaling more than 4,300 a day.

Working to expand capacity by thousands of more tests a day, the state continues to partner with hospitals to bring additional labs online and is exploring additional mobile testing sites across the state, along with continued consistent delivery of necessary supplies, such as the reagent and viral transport media.

HOSPITAL CAPACITY

Hospitals across the state are meeting the current need, and the state is building additional capacity to treat patients that may need care in the future.
 
As of March 23, data reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) showed 12,588 non-ICU beds, 1,106 ICU beds and 1,595 ventilators available in hospitals across the state. The current capacity of the state’s health care system as of is shown in the table below.

 Non-ICU BedsICU BedsVentilators
In Use13,4371,488634
Available12,5881,1061,595
Total26,0252,5942,229
% occupied51.6%57.4%28.4%

Looking ahead, IDPH has put together projections for the hospital infrastructure needed to meet a surge of demand on the health care system if no protective measures were put in place — the worst-case scenario. Given that Gov. Pritzker has instituted a variety of mitigation and suppression methods over the last two weeks, the anticipated need will likely fall below these forecasts.

On March 30, IDPH projected that hospitals across the state would need an additional 2,511 non-ICU beds, 837 ICU beds and 419 ventilators compared to current capacity if the state took no action to combat the virus.

On April 6, IDPH projected that hospitals would need an additional 28,222 non-ICU beds, 9,407 ICU beds and 4,704 ventilators compared to current capacity without any protective measures.

This projected surge emphasizes the urgency that brought Gov. Pritzker to take several actions to ‘flatten the curve’ and prevent a rapid increase of cases.
 
In addition to those protective measures – which include the stay at home order, ban on gatherings exceeding 10 people, school closures and social distancing guidelines – the Governor has taken several steps to increase the capacity of the health care system:

• Triage centers: The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has deployed 49 tents to area hospitals to set up triage centers outside their facilities to evaluate potential COVID-19 patients. In total, 66 of the state’s over 200 hospitals are currently operating with this expanded capacity. IEMA is working with 26 additional hospitals across the state to open new triage centers.

• Repurposing old hospitals: IDPH, IEMA, the Illinois National Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are investigating closed hospitals that could temporarily reopen to support our COVID-19 response. In a worst-case scenario surge, the State would dedicate several dozen existing hospitals almost entirely to COVID-19 patients, moving non-COVID patients to other hospitals, including these re-outfitted locations.

• Expanding capacity in existing hospitals by acquiring critical equipment: The administration continues to scour the globe for essential medical equipment like ventilators, including working with scientists and experts in Illinois and beyond to pursue innovative options. The Governor also spoke with President Trump yesterday and informed him that Illinois needs millions of N95 masks and hundreds of ventilators. The President promised assistance, and yesterday afternoon, the White House notified IDPH that Illinois will be receiving 300 ventilators and 300,000 N95 masks from FEMA in the coming days.

Self-Sufficiency Urged for Personal Protection Equipment

From Crystal Lake resident Dawn Mueller:

COVID-19: PPE face mask campaign: from Patriot Dawn

FROM THE DESK OF PATRIOT DAWN:

Dear McHenry County Resident:

As part of my effort to encourage the leadership of McHenry County, our townships and our municipalities to launch a county-wide campaign to develop *our own* capacity to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) supply to take care of *both* our healthcare & first-responder need AND our citizens’ need for PPE to protect us ALL as best as possible from the COVID-19 pandemic, I am sharing the links below with you.

Governor J.B. Pritzker and the McHenry County leadership have so far failed to protect the citizenry from the lack of adequate supplies of PPE. 

It is wrong to sit on our butts and suck our thumbs while expecting President Trump to give us all protective gear and keep our American asses safe. 

You, as an American citizen, are responsible for your own safety and survival, ultimately, and for your family, neighbors, loved ones and community. 

The President is responsible for commanding the military and securing our borders and ports, and enforcing federal laws. 

He is not responsible for putting an anti-viral face mask or N95 respirator over your mouth and nose, or exam gloves on your hands. 

Commercial stocks being unavailable in our stores for the protection of our precious McHenry County families, given our shortage, what our families & singles need are the tools & supplies to make our own gear & disinfectants.

I offer the following links as an initial suggestion. 

I hope the gist of my intent will snowball. 

I hope you will share these with the citizenry across websites and other various common communication modalities.

I expect the leadership of our county, townships and municipalities to work with our local needleworkers, crafters, craftsmen, machinists, manufacturing facilities, and materials vendors to organize a campaign to get our citizens the stuff they need to protect *all* of our citizens, so that we citizens DO NOT HAVE TO DEPEND ON ANY LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT to keep ourselves safe and preserve our livelihoods. 

OUR PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE GETTING SICK IN THE FIRST PLACE. 

The various governments should not be centralizing all PPE for the protection only of healthcare workers, or for themselves and their cronies.

We don’t need no stinkin’ socialist/communist-style government dependency on “social” programs that are nothing but poverty traps. 

Give me a sewing machine, and a moonshine still, and I will conquer the world! 

I will certainly at least conquer this bug. 

Give me liberty, or give me death! 

You can keep your stinkin’ socialist welfare dependency tactics, Mr. Pritzker. 

Let’s fire up our McHenry County CNC machines.

While we do that, a simple sewing needle and a pair of scissors will do in a pinch.

For starters, JoAnn Fabrics has placed a link on their homepage to a page of instruction video & patterns for the do-it-yourself construction of a simple triple-pleat face mask. 

Wearing this mask over commercial gear may help to extend the life of the commercial product, as the DIY mask is washable. 

Supplies can be ordered online from the website, for families & singles that don’t already have sewing supplies on-hand.

https://www.joann.com/make-to-give-response/?icn=hpzhero&ici=make-to-give-response

https://www.ajc.com/news/mask-sewing-network-built-metro-atlanta-through-social-media/IkmkKifwcPVt7QhNdNQsIL/

I am of frontier pioneer stock. 

I grew up on a farm in Coral Township. 

Mom was a quilter & needleworkers. 

We made our own clothes. 

Dad was a machinist. 

We were poor as church mice, but we made do.   

I have a background in physics & engineering. 

My daughter is a surgeon at Emory Health System in Atlanta, right down the street — literally — from CDC.

It doesn’t take a rocket engineer to figure out how to manufacture an N95 mask. 

But, if it does, I’m willing to help tackle the problem.

Let’s get our McHenry County needleworkers, crafters, craftsmen, machinists, technologists, engineers, scientists, physicians & surgeons and vendors organized.  We can reverse-engineer high-quality PPE, and figure out how to make it and our own disinfectants, ourselves…for ourselves.

Let me know if you are interested.

For Liberty & Freedom,

PATRIOT DAWN

Dawn M. Mueller

(779) 713-3893

dawnmm@mc.net

Advice about What You Flush

Careful what you flush.

The Village of Johnsburg offers the following advice:

Wastewater Treatment System Impacts

As toilet paper supplies on store shelves run scarce, many have turned to using other alternatives.

The Village has been experiencing an increase in non-flushable materials impacting its wastewater treatment system.

Homeowners on septic systems also need to be mindful of what they are flushing into their septic system. 

Please do not flush rags, wipes, paper towels and other non-flushable materials down the toilet.

Now more than ever it is important to keep our sanitary systems functioning properly.