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In general, when you see the word deducted attached to something you're going to have to pay for, it's good thing, right? But it's not so good when we're talking health insurance.

That's because of the peculiar figure/ground reversal, down the rabbit-hole world, that is the reality of health insurance today.

A deductible in the context of your health plan benefits isn't something you won't have to pay.  In fact, it's something that you must pay before the insurance company pays a dime on your behalf.

Even though it's often described as "your" deductible, the reality is that it's actually what the insurance company has deducted it from its own bill, not from yours.

So this unlike yesterday's topic, Actuarial Value,  this is something you do have to pay attention to in choosing a plan.

More below the squiggle..

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There's tons of stuff you need to figure out to make a smart decision about choosing a health plan, but there's one set of widely-quoted numbers that really doesn't figure in to your decision.

It's becoming apparent since the advent of the Exchanges is that  each of us is now going to have to become as expert in understanding the intricacies of choosing health plans as a benefit-specialist in an HR department.

Up until now people getting employer-paid health plans had a handful (if they were lucky) of pre-selected plans to choose from, or just the only plan offered by the employer. Take it or not. (Federal employees have usually had many more plan options, Lucky them!)

People who have been self-employed or seeking individual coverage rarely had the luxury of much choice.

But it's a whole new world out there.  In my area of upstate NY I have (compared to most areas) a relatively thin menu of plans: only eight companies, each offering an HMO plan in each tier.  Many areas have dozens of insurance companies so it becomes very complicated.

More below the intricately tangled skein of health plan details swirling around:

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Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 02:13 PM PDT

A sign of hope at the polls yesterday

by Araguato

I live in a little town in upstate NY, and yesterday was our Primary Day. My husband and I went down to vote just before dinner, which is often a slack time with no lines.

Our pollworkers are a cadre of ladies who look forward to the election day gig. They have managed to transition from the old (last State in the Nation to use them!) mechanical machines to the newer optical scanner devices. More importantly they are shepherding their friends and neighbors through the transition, as well. We vote in various public places: school gyms, church basements, ambulance garages, Grange Halls, Magistrate Court rooms, etc. It's always a very folksy atmosphere with the workers' sewing projects, homemade cookies and penny candy bowls crowding the Official Voting Registrars and party voting lists on the card tables.

Hyper-partisanship is nowhere in evidence. Yesterday I noted that one candidate's signs seemed improperly close to the polling station. So the workers came out and we agreed that the signs were within the 100 foot black-out zone. I went over and set the signs down on the ground. Problem solved.

As it happened, we were the only voters and afterward we chatted about the weather (this is a rural town so that's a BIG deal here) and miscellaneous town happenings with the poll workers. The Dem registrar asked me if I was voting for Obama in November, and I said, "Yes." My husband, having just voted in the Republican Primary (we're a mixed marriage), allowed that he was also going to vote for Obama. And then to my complete surprise, so did one of the Republican election workers! And the other Republican poll worker said she was unsure but considering doing so, as well.

This town is solidly Republican; little gets done that isn't directed from the local R-Party committee.  Indeed it's almost redundant to hold the town meetings afterward since most of the decisions are made in camera at the Committee Meeting. But when the paid Republican Poll workers are voting for the other Party's Presidential candidate something unusual is afoot.

I was a little disconcerted that we were talking so openly in the polling station, though we were the only ones there, so I didn't press the issue.  I wasn't abashed at discussing the topic in public since in small towns everybody knows your business, anyway. I was just worried that someone would come in and interpret it as politicking within a polling place. Afterward I thought I ought to have pushed the Republican waverer a bit by bringing the conversation around to Rmoney/Ryan Social Security plans. There's still time, I think, for another shot at it privately. I am revisiting my assumptions about some of my neighbors who I had thought to be totally Foxed and un-persuadable.

It's hard to watch the daily misrepresentations, and deliberate obfuscations that swirl about the Republican machine. And we must not shirk the fierce GOTV battle. But while it may seem like an endless slog, I think we may be surprised (pleasantly) at the outcome in November. As hard as the right-wing partisans are working to upend the process and confuse people, there is still a robust common-sense in the electorate, I believe.

Of course, I'm NY and Obama probably has all the NY electoral votes already sewed up, so it really doesn't matter. But still, it would enliven my Election Day to believe that I had captured the votes of Republican poll workers for Obama. It's a previously untapped voting block, don't you think? I'm going to give it a shot. What a hoot!




Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 06:08 AM PDT

Latin Squares = KenKen puzzles?

by Araguato

This will be almost a non-diary, more a request for info.  My apologies, but I just noticed this group and I been trying to sort this out on my own, to no avail.

In 2009, I happened upon the new KenKen puzzles in the NYT. I had never gotten keen on Sudoku, but somehow KenKen got me hooked. Fortunately I found them just before I was suddenly confronted with a major family health crisis, so I used them to rest my brain when medical stuff was too overwhelming.  

Over time I found more (and bigger) puzzles online so I could keep pushing my skill level to meet my continuing need for daily brain-anesthesia as I slog onwards through the miasma of "The Best Health Care System in World".  

One of the leading lights on another forum I frequent recently mentioned that she was amused when people who had no time for Latin Squares in her stat courses where begging for help on puzzles with cute names. Of course, I immediately Googled LS, and I see that LS appear to be my fave KenKens.  Well, sort of , or maybe they are Sudoku?

It probably doesn't matter much, but what is bugging me is that I can't figure out the mathematical or statistical purpose of Latin Squares.  How are they used; what do they do? Wikipedia only confused me more.

If someone can explain what is the math or stat use of LS, I would be very grateful.

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