WHAT’S YOUR ANNUAL HEALTH INSURANCE COST INCREASE?: I just got my annual benefits package from my employer–I’m looking at an increase of 15% this year, though I’m not going to complain since I’m only paying $205 every two weeks, and you can do a lot worse than that. If you want to see how others are doing there’s a Fatwallet thread here where everybody’s posting their numbers, and you’re of course welcome to post your numbers in the comments below. [Read more…]
“Hard-working designers like Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, or Antoine Bugle Boy… These are the people who saw an overcrowded marketplace and said, “Me too!” –Homer Simpson
We are living in a golden age of payments. Never have there been so many ways for folks to shuffle around money and possibly find ways to make money by doing so! Eventually most of these companies will go broke, merge, get acquired, and so forth, but in the meantime there’s plenty to keep an eye on. [Read more…]
40% OFF ANYTHING AT LOWE’S: There are a couple of stackable Lowe’s deals you may be interested in:
- $10 off $50 via an Amex Twitter Sync promotion
- $10 off $50 via online coupons. There are other coupons as well: 10% off, $20 off $100, and $30 off $150. Go to Slickdeals for the links to all these.
FREE $5 FROM AMEX: Get a $5 credit from Amazon when you buy $45 of Amazon gift cards.
HOW TO GET FREE HOTEL ROOMS: Travel Is Free has a very helpful amalgamation of hotel Best Rate Guarantee resources.
OBAMACARE NUMBER-CRUNCHING: In John Mauldin’s weekly bulletin, he’s got a lot of interesting macro-type stuff on healthcare economics. For example:
A hospital system like the Cleveland Clinic currently bills about $18 billion for medical services and collect around $6 billion. (We do not know the exact numbers for the Clinic.) It costs such a system around $5.5 billion to provide all the services, and thus they are able to invest $500 million in plant, equipment maintenance, and new equipment at the Clinic. An institution like the Clinic gets this revenue by collecting from Medicare about $0.23 on the dollar billed, from Medicaid about $0.18 on the dollar billed, and about $0.38 on the dollar billed for the aggregate of commercially insured patients. We are sure this seems bizarre to someone from outside the US, and actually it does to us, too, but it is the way the system has evolved.
Very bizarre! I can’t think of any other industry outside of debt collection where you can only expect a third of what you’re owed.
Here’s a cost-cutting measure currently being put into place:
An article in Health Affairs indicates that in California the CALPERS system, the largest state-run health insurance provider, has gone to reference pricing in some areas – CALPERS gives employees $30,000 for a total hip or total knee replacement and lists the hospitals that charge less than that. Virtually all academic medical centers (those that provide care for the sickest, and those that train our future doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, etc.) fall into the high-cost group, and their share of the CALPERS patient population that has hip or knee replacements has gone from 54% to 35%, while the share for low-cost hospitals has climbed from 46% to 65%. (Only one high-priced group hospital in California converted to a low-cost group hospital in the past three years.)
The bottom line:
The prediction is these hospitals will be paid approximately 5% fewer total dollars next year and 25–35% fewer dollars in 2018, while treating a growing number of patients. Since more than 60% of their costs (in many institutes the figure is more than 80%) are for personnel, we either have to find ways to do things more efficiently, that is with fewer personnel to do the same amount of work (for example, as the Center for Integrative Medicine has done with the shared medical appointments for acupuncture or with the shared TrimLife Program); or to do things in new ways (to re-engineer care), as in the Lifestyle Medicine Program; or to do things with less-expensive personnel, for example, by substituting a medical assistant for a physician or nurse in some processes where a physician assistant is equally capable of doing those things.
There’s much, much more–please take a look if you’re at all interested in the current healthcare debate.
Sure, most of you have received free travel, free gift cards, and free cash–but how many of of you can honestly say you’ve received free land? The days of the Homestead Acts are long gone, but believe it or not it’s still possible to get land free of charge in the United States. Where, you ask?
Pretty Much The Entire State of Kansas: Kansas has so much free land they’ve got a website called kansasfreeland.com to keep track of it:
That’s 11, count ’em, 11 Kansas towns that want to give you free land. There have been a few success stories, but generally speaking it’s hard to convince people to move to small-town Kansas, even for free land. The most successful effort has been the one in Marquette, where they’ve given away dozens of lots and boosted the school’s enrollment.
Possible downside: aside from Kansas City, Topeka, and Wichita, there are not many CVS’s in the state.
Loup City, NE: As of 2011, the city was offering a free lot–not to mention $10,000 in downpayment assitance and USDA-sponsored closing cost assistance–to anybody willing and able to build a house.
I’ve never been to Nebraska, but the picture on Loup City’s website makes it look more scenic than I imagined:
You can find more info on free land in Nebraska here.
Camden, ME: Surprisingly, not every single free land opportunity is in fading Midwestern towns–at least one of them is in a fading east coast town! If you can create at least 24 full-time jobs (with benefits), then you’re eligible to receive a 3.5 acre chunk of prime real estate in downtown Camden.
Muskegon, MI: But why settle for 3.5 acres in Maine when 25 jobs will get you a full 5 acres in Muskegon, MI? Create 100 jobs and they’ll give you 30 acres. Muskegon has the advantage of being strategically located all the way on the opposite side of the state from Detroit.
Marne, IA: I’ve never been to Iowa, either (the great plains are sadly unknown to me)… but to my surprise and delight it actually has trees. Or at least, the town of Marne does. Here’s a picture of one of the free lots that could be yours if you’re willing to move there:
Hazelton, ND: If the Nebraska winters aren’t cold enough for you, you could always head north to Hazelton, ND, but you may want to think twice about such a decision. This town actually lured a family from Miami with free land and cash, only to see them flee four years later after being shunned by the community:
Michael Tristani came from his native Florida wearing gold necklaces and a Rolex and driving a Lexus. He proved as foreign as a flamingo in a place where pickups, farm caps and flannel shirts are de rigueur.
“People thought I was a drug dealer,” he said.
As far as I can tell, the free land and cash offer is no longer in effect.
Have a great weekend!