Instead of Overbooking……

Nobody asked, but I have the answer to airline company overbooking, and I learned it in the summer of 1965 while on a graduate Russian language study tour of the USSR.  The tour was managed by Indiana University and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Our group, 25 high school Russian language teachers, showed up at the airport for a flight from one Soviet city to another. We were on time.  In fact, we were a bit early. Our departure time came and went, and we waited.  And waited.  Finally the professor in charge of our little group asked whether the flight had been cancelled, the aircraft was in need of repair, or what other reason explained why we were waiting for more than 2 hours for our flight. The answer: “We are waiting for more passengers to fill the seats that are still vacant.”

Problem solved.  Instead of overbooking, just don’t take off until the seats are all spoken for.

And thank you for flying Aeroflot.

Arithmetic and Health Care

Kevin Schulman, M.D., professor of medicine at Duke University and visiting scholar at Harvard Business School, provides us with a brief and, thank you very much, understandable explanation (Raleigh News & Observer, March 23, 2017, “Why the health care market doesn’t work.”)

First, the concept of any insurance system: we all pay into a pool of money that is used to reimburse us when whatever is insured is damaged and requires some of the pooled money to be fixed. Or, in the case of health care, healed – we hope.

In short, all of us who put money in the pool are sharing the risk. Few of us will avoid the misfortune, the need to have a car restored, a home repaired, a business to prop up after a fire or other disaster, a serious health problem treated, and so on. Those of us who never suffer such misfortune help finance the relief for those who do. (Somewhere along the line I recall reading that Ben Franklin either invented the concept of insurance or transplanted it in the Colonies.)

Health insurers are stuck trying to predict the ratio of healthy to sick people who will sign up for their policies. It’s not much of a stretch to grasp that the larger the number of sick policyholders the higher the cost of the insurance. That’s why the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare – I never could figure out which was which; a smidgen of humor there…..) had a provision requiring people with no health care to pay what amounted to a tax.

For the pool to work, everybody has to jump in.

Next, here is the arithmetic to demonstrate the importance of the healthy/sick ratio. Dr. Schulman provides a conceptual model. “The key question is what proportion of the population who sign up for insurance will be healthy.” Suppose 80% of the population is healthy and each of those healthy people will require $1,000 a year for their health care services. The other 20%, sick people, will require $10,000.

80 healthy people x $1,000: $ 80,000

20 sick people x $10,000: $200,000

Total: $280,000

Cost per person ($280,000/100) $ 2,800

Decrease the number of healthy people to 70% and you get:

70 healthy people x $1,000: $ 70,000

30 sick peopole x $10,000: $300,000

Total: $370,000

Cost per person ($370,000/100) $ 3,700

Note the difference between $2,800 and $3,700 is $900. As a percentage, the difference is 32%.

Does 32% ring a bell, sound like a number that closely resembles the increases in health insurance premiums we’ve been hearing about?

What happened is that health insurance industry estimated (guessed) wrong. They used the 80% healthy percentage and wound up with the 70%.

And then there is the assumption that doctors and hospitals will work together to bring down the cost of health care? Why on earth would they do that? We have a profit based, market driven health care system, the object of which is to make money. Where is the incentive to lower prices?

If we start over with our health care system, shouldn’t the foundation principle be that we, the people, have an inalienable right to health care? If we don’t start and stick with that principle, the health care system will always be great for some, barely adequate for many, and attainable only in emergency rooms and the rare clinic for many more.

More Satire, Please

Did you happen to take in the late night program that featured sidewalk interviews with U.S. citizens who didn’t know that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare were the same? Some preferred the former because it was “affordable.” Others, clearly fans of Michelle, allowed as to how Obamacare was the better of the two.

Satire. What would we be without it?

In my adopted State of North Carolina, this morning’s newspaper contained a report, obviously satire, about ten of our legislators who think it would be a good idea to eliminate the requirement for a permit for those who would like to carry a concealed handgun. Must be satire. No one in their right mind would want more concealed handguns out there, although those geniuses did include a lengthy list of places where concealed handguns would not be allowed. My guess is that TSA-like frisking stations would be set up in hundreds of locations to help law enforcement gain compliance with all those places all those gun-carrying folks would have to check their weapons bedore entering. Need some gun lockers too. Good job creation with all that.

And then there is the idea that personal opinion and not so much science should inform national policy on such subjects as vaccines, fuel economy standards, carbon emissions, endangered species, pandemic response, and protected waterways (TIME, 2/13/2017, p. 19).

And let’s build up more climate change denial out there. Satire has surely been the motivation behind those obviously doctored photographs of retreating glaciers, the elimination of any mention of climate change on the White House website, and the freezing of EPA grants.

Good grief…..

Loyal Opposition – Thanks, Coach

Great Britain’s lawmakers (Parliament) who are not in the party of the country’s prime minister are known as “back benchers” or the “loyal opposition,” emphasis on “loyal.”

A brief column in this week’s Sports Illustrated (January 30, 2017, page 18), provides us with an excellent example of loyal opposition as stated by Coach Greg Popovich of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. An Air Force veteran, he offered his thoughts on the state of the union:

“I’d just feel better if somebody was in that position that showed the maturity and psychological and emotional level of somebody that was his age. It’s dangerous, and it doesn’t do us any good. I hope he does a great job, but there’s a difference between respecting the office of the presidency and who occupies it. And that respect has to be earned. But, it’s hard to be respectful of someone when we all have kids and we’re watching him be misogynistic and xenophobic and racist and make fun of handicapped people….

“….But I felt great today watching the march in protest [of] how he has conducted himself, because it tells me I live in a country where a whole lot of people care. And we have to be vigilant to make sure that, although we all hope that he does good things for our country, that we don’t get embarrassed by him and roll back liberties that have been worked for [for] so long.”

Thanks, Coach…….

Surprised By Numbers

First, an iceberg larger than the State of Delaware is about “…to break off from a giant ice shelf in Antarctica. It, the iceberg, measures 1,930 square miles. Source: TIME, January 23, 2017, p. 11.

Makes we wonder if Iceberg Delaware will be visible from the beach this year…..

Second, take a guess as to how many bombs the U.S. dropped last year. Hint: it was 3,027 more than in 2015.

According to an anlysis of Defense Department data by the Council on Foreign Relations, the total for 2016: 26,171. That comes to 12,192 in Syria, 12,098 in Iraq, 1,337 in Afghanistan, 496 in Libya, 34 in Yemen, and 3 in Pakistan. Source: ibid, p. 11.

Makes me wonder how many of those bombs hit targets that threatened the security of the U.S…..

Last, take a guess as to the combined total of nuclear weapons the U.S. and the Soviet Union had on hand during the height of the Cold War. Hint: it was in the tens of thousands.

The answer: seventy thousand. Source: The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes, Simon and Schuster, Foreward to the 25th Anniversary Edition.

Makes me wonder how many are still ready to go if someone decides this planet has been around long enough…..

Could That Possibly Be The Same?

I expect most men, even my friends, would be a bit embarrassed by this.

Have you Facebook fans noticed their new feature, the post in which you, yes you, have reached some anniversary or milestone on Facebook?

An example: today Facebook notified me that it has been six years since I became friends with one of my nieces. Actually, it’s a best friend’s daughter, but I think of his kids as a nephew and four nieces.

Anyway, it has been six years.

Here’s the embarassing part: the post shows a photo of me, it happens to be my regular photo or profile photo or whatever the photo is called that shows up automatically now and then. I happened to notice that in that photo I am wearing the same shirt I’m wearing today.

It’s a good shirt, an L.L. Bean’s, and I’ll probably still be wearing it six years from now if I’m still breathing.

Besides, it still washes up pretty well. And nobody else of importance (read: wife) has said anything about it.

Does kinda make me think about the other stuff in my closet, though I’m pretty sure it’s all newer than my Facebook shirt.

Small Toilets….?

The other day a headline in our local newspaper intrigued me.  It promised a brief article about “small toilets.”  Had me wondering about a variety of weird things until I read the article and quickly realized the headline writer meant “smart toilets,” which had me wondering about a variety of other weird things.

Smart toilets?  I have just enough tech savvy to know that the “Internet of Things” is the next big thing, but smart toilets?  What, we’ll be able to flush from anywhere in the world with our, you know, smart phones?

“Honey, hand me the phone.  I think I forgot……”

“Here darling.  While you’re at it, please make sure the refrigerator doesn’t order another jar of that awful mustard.”

Good grief.