Easily bored? Skip this column

By George Smith

If you feel the need, skip this column today because it’s about a really boring subject: Insurance.

Many people – virtually everyone who is not associated with the industry in some way – think they understand insurance. They are wrong – double-dog dead wrong.

Take life insurance for example. You buy insurance in order to give someone (or some entity) money if you die. Did you get that? It’s just like you’re in Las Vegas and you are gambling: You are betting the insurance company that you are going to die and they are betting you are not going to go toe’s up … at least not soon.

It’s death’s version of the dollar slots.

And like all legal gambling edifices, the odds are in the house’s favor.

Insurance companies have truckloads of information that you, the insured, do not have. Actuary tables going back to the days of Moses tell agents when the average person – based on an incredible array of data – is going to go bucket-kicking. While they do not become giddified if a customer lives to be 112 (with coverage more than likely dropping the older you get and premiums more than covering the cost of the policy over time), they do get a twinge of sadness for anyone dying young with a $500,000 policy after making two payments.

It’s just human nature.

Of course, like any professions from physicians to news employees, there are good and bad insurance agents. There are no bad doctors, newsies or insurance agents or companies in the Marshall area and that comes from personal experience. Other towns are not so fortunate.

At this particular moment in my life, I have insurance: Car (three), an ATV, homeowners, personal property, life insurance (2), travel insurance for an upcoming trip and health insurance (Medicare and a supplemental policy).

Realizing this is a Yikes! moment.

We pay out X-dollars a month in various forms of insurance and, get this, hope we don’t need any of it. On one hand, you have to have it in case you need it; so, in effect, most people are betting there will be no wrecks, that vandals don’t attack the insured property with Magic Markers, that no one dies, that burglars hit somebody else’s house, that an upcoming trip goes off smoothly, that any health issues are minor ones.

Checking on one insurance policy recently – medical – the total amount billed for a relatively minor operation (one night stay) was $82,000-plus. The primary and secondary insurance companies paid $29,800; I paid $350, leaving a balance of about $53,000. I did not pay that nor was I ever billed.

That amount was written off after negotiations between the two insurance entities and some medical company and hospital minions. So, either the hospital and staff and the doctor and helpers decided to be generous to a senior citizen or they were satisfied with what they were paid.

So, then, why is the cost so high in the first place?

Many people have become exponentially smarter since access to Google entered our lives. The Billing Advocates of America website (BAA) has tons of information for the uninformed, confused or for folks simply looking for facts rather than conjecture.

Many doctors, according to the site, do not know how much they will get paid when they see a patient, because 1) They don’t process their own billing and 2) insurance companies pay based on internal algorithms.

When doctors, or their agent, send a bill, they will typically add to the actual cost to ensure they get adequate payout. Of course, the insurance companies know this but it makes no matter since they are using their internal figures based on their calculations on what a procedure is worth.

Here’s the rub. A cash customer normally gets billed at the same high rate that is send to the insurance company. Say wha…..?

(Here’s where this column becomes worth the time it takes to read it.)

Cash patients, armed with this information, can attempt to negotiate the bill with the doctor or staff in an attempt to lower the cost to what the insurance company pays. The same goes for hospital and other medical service agencies.

If you have insurance, an annual talk with your agent will keep you apprised of industry changes that could prove beneficial. As insurance and medical costs increase, it is imperative that consumers get as familiar with the rules of the game as possible.

Check out billadvocates.com and similar sites for the best information.

Now that we’ve covered that topic, let’s turn to another riveting subject in which we all have a vested interest: Solid waste disposal ….

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Communication is an art

By George Smith

Communication is an art, like, well, art, you know, painting, acting, sculpting or chain-sawing a realistic bear from a stump. Playing a sport  at the highest level is an art, as is being able to maneuver a car in Dallas rush hour traffic or winning the eternal battle of having a happy marriage through sticktoitiveness and expressing love through actions and words.

Words matter. They define who we would like to be, who we are.

“(Homelessness) a phenomenon that started two years ago. It’s disgraceful. I’m going to, maybe—and I’m looking into it very seriously – we’re doing some other things that  you probably noticed like some of th4 very important things that we’re doing now. But we’re looking at it very seriously, because you can’t do that.”

It may be hard to believe that this is not a line from the movie “One Flew Over the Cockoo’s Nest.” It’s not. It’s one of the more quizzical quotes by the U.S. Communicator in Chief, President Donald Trump.

It is hard to imagine the word salad above came out of the mouth of the nation’s leader; it did, trust me. Or look it up.

How smart people can be born-again members of a cult that follows a leader who makes statements that either: 1. Make no sense; 2. Start and end with obvious lies, or; 3. Refers to himself in the third person or gives himself verbal pats on the back for his intellect, handsomeness or business acumen, eludes me.

Examples of his hair-raising statements in news conference gaggles, speeches and as Twitter fodder:

  • (The action was taken) “despite the negative press covfefe.”
  • The media: “The media is – really, the word, I think one of the greatest terms I’ve come up with – is fake.”
  • 2016 election: “If Abe Lincoln came back to life, he would lose New York and he would lose California.’
  • On immigration: “Why are we having all these people from s—thole countries come here?”
  • On immigration: We’re roundin’ ‘em up in a very humane way, in a very nice way. And they’re going to be happy because they want to be legalized. And, by the way, I know it doesn’t sound nice, But not everything is nice,”
  • Women’s rights: “I will be phenomenal to the women. I mean, I want to help women.”
  • Terrorism: “When you see the other side chopping off heads, waterboarding doesn’t sound very severe.”
  • Climate change: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
  • Hillary Clinton: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?”
  • Intelligence: “Sorry, losers and haters but my IQ is one of the highest, and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure. It’s not your fault.”
  • On First Daughter: “(Ivanka) does have a very nice figure…If she weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
  • On Trump: “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well-documented, are various other parts of my body.”
  • Voters: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated!”
  • Media and women: “You know, it really doesn’t matter what (members of the media) write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of a–!”
  • War: This is the Trump theory on war: But I’m good at war. I’ve had a lot of wars of my own. I’m really good at war. I love war in a certain way. But only when we win.” (Note: He received five draft deferments due to “bone spurs.”)


  • War: “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?”

And, finally:

  • Border wall: “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me. And I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

Words matter…until an individual decides they don’t. And in the case of Trump, millions of Americans have decided the president’s words and actions  don’t matter, that they will wallow in his message of hate and exclusion and bullyboy tactics and accept them as their own.

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