Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Why you don't need private health insurance (?)

Government healthcare for all is an enduring Leftist dream.  And they have gone close to enacting it in some countries.  Obamacare in the USA is the latest such "triumph".  That many Americans still can't get ANY healthcare must not be allowed to rock the boat, it seems.

So every now and again we see some Leftist trying to counteract all the horror stories emanating from government hospitals by saying that the government system is so good that private health insurance is not needed.  The 40% of Australians who have private health insurance and go to private hospitals is deluded, apparently.

But I am not going to contest his claim that he personally has received satisfactory treatment from government hospitals. Undoubtedly, some people do.  The elephant that he can't see in his room is: Waiting lists.  For some treatments, patients can wait years in the government hospital system.  Even cancer patients can wait weeks to get an appointment with a specialist  and then there is a much longer wait for actual surgery.  And that can be fatal.

As it happens, I get a lot of cancer and have top private health insurance.  And I can get an appointment at very short notice, sometimes less than a week.  And I can be under the knife a couple of weeks after that.  So private hospitals are needed if you want to dodge waiting lists.

As it happens, most of my surgeries are minor so I mostly choose to be treated as an outpatient rather than being sdmitted.  And I have to pay most of my costs for that out of my own pocket.  Health insurance mostly covers hospitalization plus a few incidental things.  But there have been quite a few occasions where I had to be admitted.  On one occasion I was on the operating table within hours of arriving at the front counter.   And the very large costs that my admissions generated were completely covered by my health insurance.  And I went to what is often regarded as Brisbane's top private hospital.  The treatment I received there certainly was as good as I could have asked.

So you can win the lottery with government hospitals but you wouldn't want to rely on it.  40% of Australians don't.  Maybe they know something?

Every year people rail against the private health insurance companies for hiking up premiums, usually way above the inflation rate.

Not me. Couldn't care less.  I don't have private health insurance. Never have. Can't see the point.

Not only do I think I'm better off financially, I'm also putting my money where my mouth is - in support of a universal public health service.

Ian McCauley, a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Development, has done some modelling on whether you're better off insuring or not.

He told me that if a reasonably healthy person at 25 wisely invested the equivalent of their insurance premium every month to cover medical expenses, they'd have about $80,000 left over at death in their 80s to pay for a very decent wake.

I, too, reckon I'm better off without forking out thousands for a policy I don't really need. And my family has had some health emergencies in our time.

Last year my partner was diagnosed with cancer. She is now recovering after having had the most dedicated support from nurses, doctors and other professionals in the public health system. We have been out of pocket for some things, sure, but many of those expenses aren't covered by most health insurance, anyway. The bulk of our expense was covered by Medicare.

We found there is no difference in the quality of care she received. We know this first hand - my partner shared a public ward with private patients.

For other incidents - broken bones, childhood illnesses - and ongoing visits to the GP, Medicare covers us via payments we make through the taxation system. (We only go to bulk-billing doctors.)

We have never felt like we were a low priority - whether on the cancer ward or when my son broke his leg. We have nothing but appreciation and praise for the dedicated healthcare workers in our public hospitals. They truly are heroes.

One of my sons has braces at the moment. We've paid for that out of our pocket, but the payments are spread out over a couple of years and are manageable at $280 a month.

Private insurance doesn't cover the full cost of what they call these "extras", anyway.

A quick look at Medibank's insurance for "Top Extras" (up to $45.51 a week for a family with hospital cover from April 1) shows they only pay $1000 a year for orthodontics, with a lifetime limit of $3000 per person. So that's $2366.52 a year in premiums for ancillary health cover with only a $1000 for braces.

I think I'll pass. Have they actually checked how much braces cost? It's closer to $10,000.

Given all the caps, limits and thresholds, it really shouldn't be called insurance.

The whole idea of insurance is that you cap your expenses by paying a premium and the insurance company carries the burden of open-ended risk. Don't feel sorry for them, they employ batteries of actuaries to make sure they make a tidy profit.

If you have top-shelf comprehensive car insurance and through no fault of your own your vehicle gets totalled, you'd expect your policy to cover the cost of a new car.

But health insurance? It's the insurance companies that cap their exposure while you still carry the open-ended risk.

Some people take out health 'insurance' just to avoid paying a tax levy. And the insurance companies know this. NIB's website asks "What can we help you with?" and one of the options is "Cover to avoid tax".

Seriously? Why would anyone prefer their money sitting with an insurance company rather than going into the collective pot to pay for roads, schools and hospitals?

While many of us focus on whether or not to continue paying a premium for a pretty poor product, we actually need to look at the policy implications.

What is our health system for? The argument that public patients are a "burden" on the health system is just muddle-headed. It seems our policy pundits and political parties are all in favour of our public health system - until somebody has the temerity to use it.

This is a false moral appeal, says McAuley. "It is an attempt to redefine our public health system as one for the also-rans, the poor and indigent in our society."

The whole public health system should actually be seen as a universal public good, not part of a welfare system.

Sure, if you can afford to pay more you should - but that's what we have a taxation system for. Making that more equitable should be the real focus of tax reform.


Rogue organization explains Australia's warm waters

Australia's BoM has often been caught out making unwarranted "adjustments" to Australia's temperature record.  They are so crooked that they couldn't lie straight in bed.  So the screed below is amusing. The seas around Australia -- and Australia has a lot of those -- have apparently warmed up a bit recently.  So that's got to be global warming, right?  They say so but in a very guarded way.  They agree that most of the causative factors are natural but slip in: "with a substantial contributor being human-caused climate change".

Hey!  No numbers?  These guys are supposed to be scientists and scientists quantify.  How much is "substantial"?  They can't say because they are afraid to say.  If "a substantial contributor is human-caused climate change", then CO2 levels must have risen a lot, right?  But we can easily check that.  Australia has its very own CO2 monitoring station at Cape Grim.  So what does Cape Grim tell us about recent CO2 levels?  It tells us that CO2 levels have been stuck -- completely plateaued -- on 398ppm for the last 7 months. Check it for yourself.  So the temperature rise was NOT caused by a CO2 rise and the human contribution was therefore zero.  More BoM lies

This summer’s sea temperatures were the hottest on record for Australia: here’s why

The summer of 2015-2016 was one of the hottest on record in Australia. But it has also been hot in the waters surrounding the nation: the hottest summer on record, in fact.

Difference in summer sea surface temperatures for the Australian region relative to the average period 1961-1990. Australian Bureau of Meteorology

While summer on land has been dominated by significant warm spells, bushfires, and dryness, there is a bigger problem looming in the oceans around Australia.

This summer has outstripped long-term sea surface temperature records that extend back to the 1950s. We have seen warm surface temperatures all around Australia and across most of the Pacific and Indian oceans, with particularly warm temperatures in the southeast and northern Australian regions.

Last summer’s sea surface temperature rankings for Australia. Australian Bureau of Meteorology

In recent months, this warming has been boosted – just like land temperatures – by natural and human-caused climate factors.
Why so warm?

These record-breaking ocean temperatures around Australia are somewhat surprising. El Niño events, such as the one we’re currently experiencing, typically result in cooler than normal Australian waters during the second half of the year. So what is the cause?

The most likely culprit is a combination of local ocean and weather events, with a substantial contributor being human-caused climate change.

In the north, the recent weak monsoon season played a role in warming surface waters. Reduced cloud cover means more sunshine is able to pass through the atmosphere and heat the surface of the ocean. Trade winds that normally stir up the water and disperse the heat deeper into the ocean have also remained weak, leaving the warm water sitting at the surface.

In the south, the East Australian Current has extended further south over the summer. This warm current flows north to south down Australia’s east coast. Normally it takes a left turn and heads towards New Zealand, but this year it extended down to Tasmania, bringing warm waters to the south east.

This current is also getting stronger, transporting larger volumes of water southward over time. This is due to the southward movement of high pressure systems towards the pole.

High pressure systems are often associated with clear weather in Australia, and when they move south they prevent rain. This southward movement over time has also been linked to climate changes in our region, meaning that changes in both rainfall and ocean temperatures are responses to the same global factors.

We’ve also seen high ocean temperatures in the Indian Ocean. Around 2010, temperatures in the region suddenly jumped, likely because of the La Niña event in the Pacific Ocean. The strong events during this period transferred massive amounts of warmth from the Pacific Ocean into the Indian Ocean through the Indonesian region.

The warmer waters in the Indian Ocean have persisted since and have influenced land temperatures. The five years since the 2010 La Niña are the five hottest on record in southwest Western Australia (ranked 2011, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012).
What are the impacts?

The world’s oceans play a major role in global climate by absorbing surplus heat and energy. Oceans have absorbed 93% of the extra heat trapped by the Earth since 1970 as the greenhouse effect has increased. This has lowered the rate at which the atmosphere is warming – which is a good thing.

However, it also means the oceans are heating up, raising sea levels as well as leading to more indirect impacts, such as shifting rainfall patterns.

As a nation that likes to live by the coast as well as enjoy recreation activities and harvest produce from the sea, warmer-than-usual oceans can have significant impacts.

Australia derives a lot of its income from its oceans and while such impacts aren’t often seen immediately, they become apparent over time.

Warm sea temperatures this summer and in the past have seen declines in coral reef health, and strains on commercial fisheries and aquaculture. The Great Barrier Reef is currently experiencing coral bleaching amid very warm water temperatures.

Our neighbouring Pacific islands have also seen the impacts of these very high sea surface temperatures, with recent mass fish kills and coral bleaching episodes in Fiji.

The impacts of warmer ocean temperatures are also felt on land, as ocean temperatures drive climate and weather. Abnormally high sea surface temperatures may have contributed to the intensity of Cyclone Winston as cyclone potential intensity increases with ocean temperature.


Public servants must not criticize their departments?

Soviet attitudes in Australia?  Fortunately knocked on the head this time

The extraordinary lengths public service bosses will go to in pursuit of internal critics has been exposed by a Fair Work Commission unfair dismissal case.

Details of the hunt by Department of Human Services managers for one its employees who criticised the department in online forums, read more like an FBI crime thriller than routine public service business.

And the Commission's decision has dealt a serious blow to the Australian Public Service's crackdown on the social media use of its employees.

In a damaging outcome to the department, FWC also found it used one of its official social media channels to supply misleading information to the public and that DHS sacked its internal critic after he told the truth about waiting times.

Centrelink worker Daniel Starr was tracked-down and sacked after he went online to contradict the department's "ridiculous assertions" about Centrelink waiting times, blasted some of his colleagues and wrote that he had no idea what senior DHS managers did with their time.

But the department will now have to give the 21-year-veteran his job back in a decision that is a serious blow to the Australian Public Service's policies on the social media activities of its workers.

The Fair Work Commission found public servants were not bound by their code-of-conduct to show deference to the government while on their own free time.

Commission Vice-President Adam Hatcher found the Public Service Act gave departments no general right to discipline their employees for political speech outside of working hours and such powers would be a "gross intrusion into the non-working lives and rights of public servants."

In April, 2015, Mr Starr, posting on a forum as user "mmmdl" engaged in an online argument with an official DHS account, Flick@HumanServices, about waiting times for youth allowance claims.

Mmmdl accused the department of "ridiculous assertions" and urged other users to contact their MPs about the "utterly disgraceful" situation.

Then the hunt for Mr Starr began, ordered by senior DHS bureaucrats Mark Withnell and Melissa Ryan, Vice President Hatcher noted in his decision.

"I would infer that this (investigation) involved a wholesale trawl through all of "mmmdl's" online posts, since it was discovered from those posts that "mmmdl" claimed that he was approximately 39 years old in January 2015, had been employed at Centrelink for 20 years, lived opposite the Telstra exchange in Corrimal, and would be travelling overseas during late May to early June 2015," Mr Hartcher wrote.

"These claims were matched with the Department's internal data sources, and permitted "mmmdl" to be identified with a high degree of confidence as Mr Starr."

Mr Starr took to the Sportal forum in 2013 to write about cuts to the public service.

"œPart of that "˜understaffing"™ is the fact that, yes, we have our share of utterly useless people that couldn't get a job anywhere else ... I honestly have zero idea what all our managers do, especially the higher managers.

"None at all."



University of Queensland Union to host bake sale that charges based on gender

A bake sale that will charge customers based on their gender for a 'Feminist Week' at the University of Queensland has sparked outrage online with some students calling it discriminatory.

University of Queensland Union posted a list of events for an organised 'Feminist Week' from April 4-8 to their website including a Gender Pay Gap Bake Sale at the campus on Tuesday.

The University of Queensland Union is holding a bake sale to celebrate Feminist Week - but not everyone wants to have their cake and eat it too.

The event welcomes anyone to come and purchase a baked good, but created cost divisions between men and women.

"Each baked good will only cost you the proportion of $1.00 that you earn comparative to men (or, if you identify as a man, all baked goods with cost you $1.00!)," the UQU outlined on their site.

"For example, if you are a woman of colour in the legal profession, a baked good at the stall will only cost you 0.55 cents!."

Many voiced their outrage at the bake sale by commenting on a post put up by UQ student Ashley Millsteed to the UQ Stalkerspace Facebook page that called the bake sale discriminatory, citing the Queensland's 1991 Anti Discrimination Act and the national 1984 Sex Discrimination Act.

"UQU, which is meant to represent all students, is engaging in conduct that's blatantly discriminatory against men to try and make some asinine political point," he wrote.

"What's interesting is that this bake sale itself constitutes discrimination under both Queensland and Federal Anti-Discrimination law."

"This is incredibly disappointing. Shame on UQU for condoning this. This is exactly why more people are starting to reject feminism. It's insulting to the women (and men) who fought, and who continue to fight for equality," wrote another commentator.

The gender pay gap is the difference between women's and men's average weekly full-time equivalent earnings and is influenced by a number of factors including work, family and society.

The gender pay gap sits at 17.3% as of March 2016, the government funded Workplace Gender Equality Agency found.

UQ School of Education associate professor and gender studies co-convenor Liz MacKinlay said the bake sale was a clever way of raising attention.

"When we ask people to check their privilege and think about equality the people who are privileged seem to get the most upset because they have the most to lose," she said.

"The reality is that people who are not privileged don't get the choice to get upset or not because as soon as they raise their voice it is silenced."

"If people are upset about it, the next question that needs to be asked is 'Why are you upset about that? Think logically about the reasons why you are upset.

"You are being asked to think about why it might be that women get paid less over the course of their lifetime."

Professor MacKinlay said she gets "pretty frustrated" when she hears people calling events like the bake sale discriminatory.

"I get pretty frustrated when I hear people saying 'What about the men, isn't that discriminatory, isn't it reverse-sexism?'," she said.

"Many men generally speaking have the extra pay as an unearned privilege while women are disadvantaged and people of colour are disadvantaged and minority groups and people who don't conform to binary genders are disadvantaged.

"If we actually looked at that the work women do to raise children at home, what cost would we be putting on that, how much is that worth to us?."

UQU women's officer Madeline Price helped organise 'Feminist Week', which runs each semester, and said it was interesting that out of all the events, the bake sale had generated the most discussion.

"If people are upset they have to pay 35c more for a cupcake, how do you think the person who earns that much less per dollar each year for the same work feels?," she said.

"(The bake sale prices) look at every identity factor that that person identifies with, we have a comparison chart for all professions, and include such intersections as gender, disability, race, sexual identity and ethnicity.

"Most of the discussion generated online is about how discriminatory it is against men when in reality it is based on a lot of other factors, more than just gender."


Outrage over child photos ignores law and logic

This week's non-story concerned the use of stock photos of happy kids and families by Barnardo's Find A Family program to promote adoption. That this story was beaten up by 'outraged' anti-adoption groups is revealing of their agenda.

The simple explanation is that privacy laws prevent the use of real images of children awaiting adoption. However, this logical legality wasn't good enough for the Australian Adoptee Rights Action Group, which reached into its stock bag of slogans to assert that the ads represented the "commodification" of children.

This slur, which implies that adoption represents an illegitimate trade in children, is wrong-headed. The alternative to adoption for children with no prospect of going home safely is to spend the rest of their childhoods in care.

The current child protection system truly turns children into valuable commodities. Those who spend the majority of childhood in care are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funding to the non-government charitable organisations that provide outsourced 'out-of-home' care services.

This is the system into which vulnerable children are eventually dumped after being profoundly damaged by prolonged exposure to abuse in the family home, before they are further damaged by spending extended periods in highly unstable 'temporary' care while efforts are made to reunite them with their dysfunctional families.

Adoption reform is about breaking this destructive cycle by intervening earlier to rescue children and provide them with the permanent and stable families they need to thrive.

None of this cuts any ice with anti-adoption groups because most of these activists were adopted and had negative experiences.

This was usually in the days when adoptions were 'closed', and lack of contact with and knowledge of biological families and heritages affected the sense of identity and belonging of some (but by no means all) adoptees. We have learned from these mistakes and harm done, which is why modern adoption are always 'open' in the best long-term interests of children.

Despite this, the anti-adoption movement encourages risk-adverse attitudes by arguing that because some adoptions have been unsuccessful, there must be no adoptions under any circumstances. In practice, this means taking a risk-blind attitude and overlooking the harm that the current system is doing to many children.

 The seeming belief that successful adoptions will invalidate the personal experiences of anti-adoption activist's verges on the narcissistic. It ignores the good that adoption would do for many children caught up in our flawed and failed child protection system.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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