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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

I feel like my posts from the last couple of days have been incomplete, and suggested that people were exaggerating the impact of the coronavirus. I do think it’s wrong to panic, but that doesn’t mean I think you should ignore advice to stay inside. Your risk of dying might be small, but by congregating, you are increasing the risk to more vulnerable populations. I am going on for items like groceries usually during periods where there aren’t a lot of people around.

Don’t panic. Be safe. Keep social distance. And then feel free to enjoy my advice about not panicking during the markets.

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One of my many maxims: 100% of financial advice is bad if the person giving it doesn’t know your personal financial situation. That goes for most of the money TV shows and columns, too. It often goes for real estate agents. It goes trebly for Jim Cramer. And it goes for ALL trading tips.

Now that the coronavirus has given the market its cold, let us consider the parallels. Both the virus and the markets likely have us so anxious that we distort the risk and actually do much riskier things (or at least unhelpful ones) rather than just relaxing and washing our hands (*and staying indoors). I’ve known CEOs who wanted to sell at the market bottom in 2008. It was not wise. But that’s what happens when the adrenal gland takes over a CEO’s body.

There are certain things to keep in mind about this market. If you have investments that lost value and are now thinking of selling them, you are going to lock in your losses. If your attitude is, “I was going to need that money soon,” you shouldn’t have been invested in stocks in the first place. Money earmarked for use within five years should be kept in a money market fund. Stocks (mainly those pursued through mutual funds) are there to grow over the long term. You take short term risks of failure for that almost certain growth. And a pandemic is one of those risks. If you are thinking of shifting money around hoping for some short-term rebound on a few hot stocks, keep in mind that the things best set to go up in value are the things that just lost you a lot of money. And what’s more, by trying to pounce on some hot stock tip, you have forsaken the responsible act of investing for the hell that is trading. Trading (let’s just call it gambling) is a world where 80-90% of people fail and those who succeed don’t realize the tax obligation they are generating in return for that big risk they took.

I’m not a doctor, but I hear a lot of risk distortion about the coronavirus as well. I still hear mortality rates being from 1% to 3%, which means I think a lot of people are giving in to the same anxiety that that CEO was. But when you move into certain cohorts and people with compromised immune systems, the mortality rate is much higher. My advice is to save your concern for the elderly. I was admonished by an older lady two months ago for covering my mouth the wrong way when I coughed. I thought it was funny, but I have to consider that that is a life and death problem to her. We also have to consider that our older relatives might need physical isolation, but emotional isolation also takes a toll on an elderly person’s health. So staying away is likely helpful–but so is calling them.

My wife has a master’s degree in epidemiology, but I’m not a doctor. If you are, feel free to correct anything wrong I’ve put in my post about medicine. But I’ve been writing about money for 22 years and get nervous seeing people make the same mistakes over and over on weeks like this one. If you are one of my friends who made a bunch of money on Apple since 1999 or have some “foolproof” personal strategy, feel free to keep that on your own page and off mine. Your information is incomplete and fosters the trading mentality. It might have worked for you, but again, it’s deadly irresponsible information for someone with a different risk profile who doesn’t know the pitfalls. It’s like you coughed around the wrong person the wrong way.

*I did not originally post that we should stay indoors and practice social distancing. I was catching up myself on the responsible behaviors pursued during a pandemic and it is now responsible of me to add these things I’ve come to understand about public safety amid health crises.

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… Or maybe we can take the “quotes” off Obamacare now, a sneering portmanteau word used almost exclusively by detractors of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Now that the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court, perhaps the pejorative meaning will someday disappear, and posterity will be kinder to the word, a herald of a time when millions of people got health care insurance, and it will cease to be used as a horrible shibboleth by a certain kind of American breed who insist that suffering is the mandatory price of freedom.

At the very least, this morning, we have avoided the distasteful sight of watching a small number of partisans carry on in front of the world and actually cheer for the vulnerability and frailty of their fellow countrymen. “Let ’em die,” as Republican conventioneers like to yell at the uninsured, ought to be the standard for sneers, not “Obamacare.”

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Many young mommies might hear from their OB/GYNs that they have a “low-lying placenta.” This can be a great worry in the third trimester, because it means that the placenta is blocking the cervix, increasing the chances of a C-section. But never fear, young mommies! There is still time for the placenta to move up into the right position, closer to the upper uterus where there is better blood circulation and nutrients–and thus less risk of pre-term delivery.

However, if after 28 weeks the placenta is still low-lying, it’s time to reduce or stop exercise and leave off the sex. I know that daddies will be unhappy, but baby will thank you!

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Baltimore, Maryland (API) George Hunsacker, a 50-year-old mechanical engineer from Prince George’s County, was getting a root canal one day last November, and recalls that just as he was getting the finishing touches on his enamel polish, his dentist turned to him and politely asked how he would be footing the bill.

The question came as a surprise for Hunsacker, who had hoped to pay through his employer’s insurance plan as he always had. But his dentist suddenly turned belligerent.

“Insurance?” Hunsacker recalls his dentist saying. “Why don’t you just pay me in chickens? Do I look like a friggin’ idiot?”

The dentist then suggested that Hunsacker call his wife and have her raid all the gold in the house, specifically any gold that might have once belonged to a grandparent or that had been passed down as a family heirloom. When Hunsacker said that the only gold was in his daughter’s mouth, his dentist said, “Well you ought to send her over. I’ll get the pliers warmed up.”

All over the country, such stories have become commonplace as America’s dentists increasingly stop accepting insurance, vouchers and the almost worthless U.S. dollar and start demanding instead up-front payment in gold rings, bracelets, pendants, ingots, bars, and scrap. Gold, they say, is the most stable medium of exchange right now–perhaps the only medium of exchange–at a time when the U.S. economy is in a free-falling spiral into the abyss, its fiat currency a laughingstock of the world.

“There’s only one thing that makes a crown in my office, and that’s gold,” jokes Alec Brommelstein, a DDS in Red Bank, New Jersey. “If you don’t have some gold in your house, then I suggest you lay off sweets, because I’m not fixing your god damn teeth anymore.”

Economists are quick to remind U.S. consumers that no paper currency of the world has ever survived, and the U.S. dollar will likely be no exception.

“It’s been propped up for too long by foreign countries using it as a reserve currency,” says economist Ralph J. Exley, a FOREX trader and former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Idaho. “Pretty soon though, the Chinese are going to be asking, ‘What do we need this shit for?’ America’s going down the tubes.”

“Kings have used gold since the days of ancient Egypt in 1500 B.C. to run their countries,” said Jack Angstrom, a dentist in Manhattan, Kansas. “Meanwhile, insurance company payouts have not kept up with inflation. That’s why I’m going to have to go in and rip this little girl’s teeth out without any Novocain.  It’s sad, I know, but it’s a fact of life.”

Angstrom then disappeared into a dental suite from which blood-curdling screams emerged moments later. Outside, patients lined up carrying the ductile, malleable and shiny metal in the form of scrap, jewelry and other melted down forms, items often carried in briefcases, on dollies and in baby prams.

Most dentists in recent surveys said that they saw insurance companies as hostile to their business models, with 54% of dentists calling insurance companies “scum bags” and the other 46% calling them “homunculuses with tiny vestigial dicks.”

“The insurance industry has been very good to dentists,” said Simon Kennedy, a spokesperson for the Association of American Insurers. “You can believe me or not. I don’t care. We have a shit load of lobbyists.”

Dentists acknowledge that gold has many drawbacks. It doesn’t pay interest–which represents an opportunity cost–and sits idly while other assets appreciate. There are also costs to hold it. However, Brommelstein says none of this will matter in the end as governments expand the money supply, making the U.S. dollar worthless at the same time global warming turns the world into a Malthusian wasteland where humans are hunted like game animals for sport.

“Insurance is a thing of the past,” he said. “The dollar is the thing of the past. Anything but you giving me the sweet precious luminous metal that is gold is a thing of the past.”

He then turned back to a phone call he was taking.

“If you want me to straighten your god damn son’s teeth for his bar mitzvah, I suggest you bring me some of that sweet, sweet gold,” Brommelstein said into the phone. “Take it off your wife’s god damned finger if you have to.”

Image: djcodrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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What factors led to the end of our marriage and/or the end of health care reform legislation in Congress?

–*We failed to articulate our goals to each other.

–*We kept fighting over money.

–*There was a lot of mutual suspicion about what the other side wanted.

–*We turned to outsiders for help and they turned out to have their own selfish interests.

–*One side didn’t know how to think for him or herself unless Glenn Beck told him or her first.

–*…or Oprah.

–*We weren’t sure how to handle the necessary abortion issue.

–*Every time we tried to talk about things reasonably it deteriorated into shouting matches.

–*Each of us accused the other of patronizing and sabotaging the other in public.

–*There was a lot of increasingly nonsensical, paranoid and loony right-wing talk coming from one side.

–*”I don’t need another mother.”

–*”I don’t need another father.”

–*Turns out one of us was a racist.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (API) Nurse Claire Simonton, an RN at local Hazelton Hospital, has seen many types of patients in varying conditions cross the threshold of her emergency room over the past four years. She’s dealt with overdoses, gunshot wounds, toys swallowed by children, etc. But nothing prepared her for the frankly sickening sight last Friday night when Dr. Saul Jacobs wheeled out an EKG machine for a 15-year-old girl who’d come in with a broken arm, witnesses said.

“Wait a minute,” said Simonton. “That’s an EKG.”

“Yeah,” said Jacobs. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“An EKG?” repeated Simonton, her jaw practically lying on the floor at the utterly flagrant use of an unnecessary procedure meant to overcharge the insurance company. “Really? an EKG.”

“You know, we just want to be sure the girl’s OK.”

“With a broken arm? You’re worried about her having a heart attack? Am I on crack? Am I going blind? Or am I actually watching you bring in an electrocardiogram for this girl?”

Simonton and Jacobs sat picking over this mordant rhetorical question for several minutes while the patient, Nancy Wallis, sat in confused silence holding the broken arm, an injury she’d sustained in a Friday night fender bender.

“I just want to make sure I understand this correctly,” said Simonton, laying on the ironic sing-song rhythms, Jacobs thought, a little bit thick and with a great deal of sanctimony, “That girl has a simple broken arm, and probably just needs a splint. But we’re going to give her an EKG. How about doing an echo-cardiogram as well? Or how about a PET scan on her brain? Or why don’t we do extensive blood work and a stand-up MRI?”

“Well it can never hurt.”

Really?”

“I wish you’d stop saying it like that.”

Simonton and Jacobs traded such barbs for several minutes using lots of patronizing rhetorical flourishes and sneers in the five minute conversation, their icy exchange playing out against the backdrop of the most farcical aspects of American health care, specifically doctors’ declining fees for service, an economic fiasco that has them scrambling to overbill insurers and rip them off however possible through procedure miscoding, double billing and other kinds of accounting shenanigans.

“Gee,” said Simonton looking over the girl. “You don’t seem like you’re about to die of a heart attack at all. How strange. And here I thought you were 80 years old. I guess nobody can really be sure about anything these days unless we’ve first checked it with outrageously expensive modern medical equipment. Why as far as I know, you might have a heart like an 60-year-old obese smoker on steroids.”

“I’m not sure what’s going on,” said the patient. “I just busted up my arm a little. You guys are freaking me out.”

As they wheeled the EKG over to the girl and began performing the expensive procedure, Nurse Simonton continued her stream of wry badinage.

“Oooooh!” said Nurse Simonton. “Her heart looks good. In fact, it looks like any heart you’d find in any 15-year-old girl. How’d that happen, I wonder?”

After 30 minutes the exchange ended when Jacobs went home for the night, first delivering a parting shot.

“You really ought to watch your mouth in front of the patients,” he said.

“Take it up with my union rep, asshole,” answered Simonton.

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