Friday, April 12, 2013

You're Money is No Good Here, Pardner!

Can you say "Mark of the Beast"?
 And so it begins.

I got a notice in the mail today.  My wife's HMO will no longer accept cash in payment for services.  Apparently it's a money-saving measure designed to reduce the insurance provider's costs.  When they doubled her premium in January, I called the customer service lady and asked about the higher bill.  She told me flatly that they had raised her rate.

"Is this some of that ObamaCare savings we've been hearing about?" I asked.  I heard a sound like someone dropping their coffee cup on the other end.

"Why no," she sputtered amidst the noisy shuffling of damp paperwork on the other end of the phone. "You see," she explained, "Your wife did use the insurance last year."

"Uh, huh," I shrugged.  You can't argue with logic like that.

Now her HMO will no longer take cash when you pay your copay at the doctor's office, lab or pharmacy.  They say it's in order to save themselves money.  You may only use a credit card, bank debit card or write a check which will be instantly verified electronically and debited from your account.  Of course that makes it difficult for anyone without a bank account.  I had that happen once when a client stiffed me for $1800 at a time I had no cash reserve.  It took me three months to find another project and pay back every cent that I was overdrawn at the bank.  The bank canceled my account and blackballed me so I couldn't get another bank account for the next 2 years and had to leave the state to do so.

"Ah, but never fear," says the HMO.  "We've thought of that."  All you have to do is go down to the Wal-Mart and buy one of those bill-pay debit cards and bring it with you to pay your bill. 

So let me get this straight. I have to take an extra trip to Wal-Mart, pay for a debit card that will necessarily be for more than my worst guess for how much my doctor bill will be and pay a fee for buying the card in order to pay my bill and save THEM money.

Even more interesting is an experiment Wal-Mart is conducting where you get these special bags and an electronic shopping card which you pay for with your debit card or you can use your debit card straight up and then you shop around, fill your basked and then skip the checkout. This machine up front scans your basket, automatically debits your card or bank account and hands you a receipt as you roll out the front door. You can refill the card next time, no cash needed. I don't know how it handles produce because I haven't tried the system yet.  Truth is, I'm a bit nervous about it.

I've watched too many episodes of NCIS. If Abby Scuito wanted to find a lacto-ovo vegetarian in the Puyallup area who has high blood pressure, wears contacts and spends a lot of money on antacids, she could hack into Wal-Mart's sales records and find my bank account number, address and be able to tell Gibbs I have dandruff and a medium-sized dog.

The technology already exists to implant an RFID chip into you with links to your complete medical record, bank account record and probably your criminal history which would be a handy tool for identifying potential shoplifters and enemies of the state. They've talked about planting it in two basic places - your hand and your head.  Someone suggested some place inconspicuous like your but, but some wag pointed out that you would probably have to call a CSM and pull down your pants in the Wal-Mart checkout line because the sensors had gotten dirty and weren't working right.

I know what they are planning. I worked with a tiger rescue group for a while.  We were talking about implanting such chips in tigers to track them anywhere by GPS and satellite tracking and to identify them, their birthdate, birthplace, medical history and DNA. Once we got the chips into wild tigers, we'd know exactly where they were at all times, where and with whom in the jungle they were having intimate relations. If you can do it with tigers, how long will it be before we get a chip at birth the way we used to be circumcised at birth (and I prefer the idea of circumcision).

I wonder if a tiger with a chip ate a man with a chip, how confusing would that be at the Wal-Mart checkout and would the tiger have to pay taxes?

Okay, I admit it.  I've read Revelation and it freaks me out a little.

I'm just saying.

Tom King:  ID# 41923-484tc89333-00y33