Sunday, July 28, 2013

More Entertainment from Fox News

Go forth and watch this.  Turning a good read into a best seller.  And along the way, explaining what scholars do.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Medicare Card Fraud

J will turn 65 in a few months and, in a rite of passage sort of like high school graduation, he received his Medicare card.  (He has also been receiving Medicare supplement advertising by mail, and now follow-up phone calls.  We expect to receive the ads for durable medical equipment soon, as well.)  But back to the card.  There,  front and slightly-below-center, is his full Social Security number.  The number we're admonished never to give to anyone.  That one.  The one that identity thieves spend lots of time trying to get.  The one that enables them to get credit cards in your name and make purchases you would make if you could afford them.

But it gets worse.  J is supposed to carry the card with him at all times.  It's his proof of insurance when we're traveling.  Can't you see the identity thieves right now?  Gauging the age of the potential victim?  Grabbing the purse or wallet and, having discarded the library card and Justice League of America membership, looking with delight at the Medicare Card.  Oh the joy!

I thought about calling my Congressperson.  Or my Senators.  But then I read up on the Internet and found that they and everyone else already knew about it.  It's become a frequent discussion in the blogosphere,  as bloggers approach their 65th birthday and receive their cards.  In fact, legislation has been proposed that would fix the problem, giving Medicare recipients a number that isn't their Social Security number.  But this obvious, common sense legislation has failed.  Yeah, failed, because Medicare doesn't want to spend the money.  (Medicare says it would cost $800 million, but the GAO claims that figure is hooey.)

There's good reason to do it now though.  As more and more people become eligible for Medicare, it will become more expensive the fix the problem.  And it will have to be fixed.  Seniors don't have anything to do.  They vote.  They write letters to their legislators.  And at lunch down at the Senior Center, they'll discuss the latest theft over their pudding.  It won't be pretty.

Meanwhile, to protect themselves, Medicare recipients should do the following:  xerox the front and back of the card.  Cut out the copies to wallet size.  Then cut out (not ink out, as someone could hold the card up to the light and read the numbers) the last four numbers of your card.  Tape or staple the two sides together, put the original card in a safe place, and carry the copy.

As I trekked across the Internet, I also found that this will protect you from some Medicare frauds.  Various fraudsters will steal your number and charge Medicare for treatments, equipment and the like that you don't want and never ordered.  And it may take a long time to catch these people, during which time they are getting paid for your non-treatment.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thank you, J

J, the attendant/husband/computer repair guy, spent several hours yesterday replacing the touchpad on my laptop.  He also cleaned the keyboard and the screen, reminding me that I am a "pig" who eats at the keyboard (onion bagels are the worst, as the onion pieces flake off into the keyboard and get stuck).  My only problem now is that I have to get used to having the scroll working--it died several years ago.

Monday, July 8, 2013

On the Joint Center's Housing Report

If you're interested in the whole report, you can read it here.  But I've only a couple of comments, since it's pretty common knowledge that low-income tenants pay a disproportionate share of their income for housing.  First, the report notes the importance of affordable housing for lower-income households, not just because decent and affordable housing is a good thing, but because it enables households to spend more money on other things, like food.  I remember reading some time back that a Boston doctor had noted that kids who lived in public housing were less likely to be malnourished than equally low-income kids in private housing.  The report also notes that low-income households that have to travel long distances for work lose much of that benefit in transportation costs.  So communities should be required to provide housing near work centers for their low-income workers.  And this leaves aside the whole issue of carbon-spewing.

Second, it's always fun to watch rich folk fighting one another.  And in the battle between the banks (no, we're not hanging onto housing until prices improve) and the National Association of Realtors (the banks are holding onto housing we want to sell), the Joint Center has come down on the side of the NAR, noting that the number of held-off-market housing units has continued to increase, even as the number of foreclosures has fallen.  But then real estate professionals are major funders of the Joint Center.  That doesn't mean they aren't right, but it's like the ratings agencies getting paid by the people issuing the securities.  Oh, yeah.

And Happy Birthday to my brother.  He's 56.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

It Was Really Hot

Sacramento is just now recovering from a week of 105+ degree weather.  Yeah, every day for a week.  I cried.  I whined.  I refused to go outside.  The air-conditioning went on at 10:30 AM. and stayed on all day and into the evening.  It was awful.  It reminded me of one reason I want to go home to the Bay Area.

Another reason is the weird social climbing that goes on here.  No one who lives here should be doing any social climbing.  I mean, this is where you live when you (a) work for the State or (b) can't afford to live somewhere nicer.  But our city mothers and fathers are okay with a dinner on the Tower Bridge that costs $175 a ticket.  This in a community where 20% of the households get the energy discount for low-income people from our local power purveyor.

I've never been into the "yuppie" aspects of locally-grown healthy food.  I remind people that, as the late Eric Hobsbawm pointed out, it was not the automobile that changed the world, but the Model-T.  Worse than that, this construction keeps people from realizing that a lot of fruits and vegies are very cheap at the Farmer's Market.  Cheaper than at the grocery store, fresher, and often grown without pesticides.  But if everyone figured this out, then it wouldn't be a positional good and they couldn't charge $175 for a dinner.