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May 17, 2007
To hell with the advances in computers. You are supposed to advance and become,
not the computers. Find out what's inside you. And don't kill anybody.
Kurt Vonnegut, American novelist and essayist, 1922 - 2007
1. Putting Together the American Time Capsule
2. Walks outside the Box, Part 5
4. Fun Facts
5. The Flashback Quarterback on Optical Illusions
6. About Montebello E-News and “My Montebello”
Putting Together the American Time Capsule
I remember a photograph of a time capsule buried on the city-hall lawn by high-school teacher Robert Henke and his students some time in the early Seventies. If we were to put together a time capsule of America in the new millennium, what would we include?
I would include a Medicare statement, something which my parents receive periodically. Why?
A Medicare statement epitomizes the growing disconnect between the public and its doting bureaucracy. Who, other than employees of a medical-billing service, understand what is being said in a statement?
My father received a statement which reported a one-night stay at Good Samaritan Hospital, at which time he received an angiograph, at over $11,000, with his co-pay at over $900 of that amount. When we made inquiry with the Medicare division of Omaha Mutual, we were told that Good Samaritan had billed over $50,000.
What was happening here? Apparently, Good Samaritan billed as it pleased and Medicare chopped away at the bill until the bill came down to $11,000. But, still, $11,000 for a one-night stay and angiogram?
How can a patient know whether he or she has been billed correctly? He cannot. Medicare statements are in code; a layperson could not understand the billing even if he or she knew English well. (What is the point of sending a statement to a patient if he or she is unable to understand the statement?)
And there is a bigger problem. How does Medicare or the patient know that the listed services on a statement did in fact take place? The statement might come months after the hospital stay, which means that the patient is unlikely to remember the details of his or her stay. Is this why Good Samaritan’s bill for a one-night stay and angiogram was for over $50,000? In other words, did Good Samaritan think that it could fabricate a bill with impunity?
If you answer the multiple-choice questions below and e-mail to email@example.com with “Lesson answers” in the subject field, you will be credited toward a “certificate of recognition in community affairs” to be awarded in 2007 by a local nonprofit organization.
1. A Medicare statement
(a) is an example of how health care is provided in America.
(b) is troubling.
2. What would be a sustainable solution?.
(a) Have a large committee of seniors say how documents should be written.
(b) Require a paper trail, that is, a list of services performed with which a patient leaves the hospital.
(c) Universal health care, which significantly reduces the rather large American health-care bureaucracy.
is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds
cannot change anything.
“Walks outside the Box” is about finding solutions when others shrug their shoulders, despair or offer palliatives. In part 4, we looked at the incident involving the May 1, 2007, demonstrators and the Los Angeles Police Department. In this part we look at the “community watchdog”.
Remember the food scares of the last few years? Tainted meat. Spinach. What else? We depend on the federal Food and Drug Administration to protect our health.
The potentially devastating problem of identity theft? We have local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to protect us. What about erroneous billings by AT&T? The Federal Communications Commission. The lottery schemes which defraud people of money? The federal Postal Inspector and others. The tragic killings at schools and universities? Campus security.
And on and on. What is common in these? Somebody else is supposed to protect us. The operative word is “supposed”. Am I implying that they do not do their job? No. But would you agree that no protection would be perfect, that depending on somebody else for the preservation of life and limb could be fatal, literally?
A solution to better protect us is to increase the budgets of Federal, state, and local agencies which protect us. But government has too much debt and all we would be doing is hiring people who do not know us—and we would not know them—to protect us. Is there a better solution, a sustainable solution?
Consider empowering people in our neighborhoods to become community watchdogs, trained and empowered to watch after our welfare. Not as good as our doing it ourselves, but better than having an unidentified person in a far-away agency punching the clock. A big difference would be that a community watchdog would be paid only by way of reward for uncovering a grave or widespread problem. (If watchdogs pounced upon every peccadillo, the community might fall apart.) Our community would budget for a reward fund, but not for salary for community watchdogs.
FOR EVERYONE. Jobs. The Montebello-Commerce YMCA is now hiring for the following positions: Member Services Representatives; Healthy Lifestyles Counselors; Dance Teacher; Aerobics Instructors; Program Leaders; Youth Bus Class B Drivers; Preschool Teachers; Swim Instructors; Lifeguards. Please call (323) 887-9622 for more information.
FOR FAMILIES. The Montebello-Commerce YMCA has summer programs for children of all ages, including summer day camp, youth softball, resident camp, swimming lessons, dance / cheer camp and more. Financial assistance is available to those who qualify. Please call (323) 887-9622 for more information.
FOR FAMILIES. Enroll now. Summer dance / cheer camp! The camp will be held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from July 30 through August 10. Participants, 5 – 12 years old, will learn a variety of dance styles: ballet, jazz, hip hop, tap, tumbling, cheer, and creative movement. Call the Montebello-Commerce YMCA at (323) 887-9622 for more information.
FOR FAMILIES. You are cordially invited to send your children to "Vacation Bible School" at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 433 North 18th street, Montebello. July 30, 31, August 1, 2, 3, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. We will have Bible stories, crafts, and delicious snacks. Contact Angelina Gomez, VBS director, St. John’s Lutheran Church. firstname.lastname@example.org .
George Washington’s inauguration, April 30, 1789:
Most of us have seen optical illusions in which one line appears longer than another when, in fact, they are of the same length. There is a Web page with a large number of optical illusions: http://www.scientificpsychic.com/graphics/ . (Heed the warning with regard to the health risk associated with one of the illusions.)
Optical illusions teach us that things are not always what they appear to be, as we have explored in past essays. The more important a decision which we are to make, the more careful we must be in making that decision. Care must be taken when we base a decision on what we see or believe that we have seen.
To learn about this newsletter, Montebello E-News, and the accompanying, growing Web site, “My Montebello”, visit www.mymontebello.com. Also, you will find instructions and contact information for submitting announcements for publication in this newsletter.
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