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Highlights—June 13, 2009

  • Hudson Valley Times Herald-Record: Ex-IBMer says layoffs target older workers. By Christine Young. Excerpts: Rick Clark has advice for anyone considering a job at IBM: Plan that your career will end at age 50. Clark, 51, a former IBM engineer with a master's degree, was stunned to learn on Jan. 27 that he would lose his job after 11 years. Not long before, his manager in East Fishkill had given him a substantial raise to prevent him from accepting a job offer from an outside company.

    But it was true; Clark's severance paperwork showed he was among 1,213 employees, specified by age and position, in IBM's Systems & Technology Group to be terminated. That's when Clark noticed something else.

    "Most of the people selected for layoff were high ages," he said. "It looked like they had selected older workers." Using spreadsheet software, Clark entered the ages and job titles of all 19,226 STG employees — also information in the severance paperwork — including those not chosen for termination. ...

    Because 60 percent of those terminated were age 50 and older, it appeared using seniority as a tie-breaker meant more older workers were fired. "If you're over 50, you have a one in five chance — 20 percent — of getting laid off," he said. "If you're in your 20s or 30s, you have a 3 percent chance of getting laid off." ...

    "IBM complies with all applicable laws," IBM spokesman Doug Shelton said after reviewing Clark's report. Clark, meanwhile, warns his aging former colleagues to plan an "exit strategy." He advises over-50 IBMers to update their resumes, eliminate debt and "think about what you might want to do for a living for the rest of your working life.

  • Hudson Valley Times Herald-Record: Reader comments concerning the above article. Selected comments follow:
    • Clearly, IBM is 'No Company For Old Men'. Nor women. Nor anyone, for that matter. It's not your father's company any longer. They don't value your skills, nor life experience, and will cut your throat as soon as someone comes along willing to work for less! Good Luck!
    • If I don't get told I am fired before I go home, I go back the next day. I take my job one day at a time as I never know if it is my last day there. It is a shame that many of us live this way, but that is the culture IBM has developed!
    • While the analysis leans in the direction of age discrimination, IBM has had plenty of time to master the art of avoiding lawsuits for issues such as this. IBM has learned that it can get the work done by someone making $30,000 a year instead of $75,000. This is the reason they continue to lay off. Forget a career with IBM past 15 years.
    • IBM has removed the word "career" from the IBM employment dictionary. Now, employees are only bodies to fill a need "at that moment in time" and nothing else. Oh, and if that body costs too much, the need for that body goes away. And forget about moving to different jobs inside of IBM. IBM throws up so many barriers to moving to new jobs, even when the hiring manager wants you, that it becomes evident that IBM does not value knowledge, experience, or newly gained education.
    • The last 3 layoffs in my immediate area were based on years of service + age. I had 30 years and I was 48 at the time. The other 2 were 60+ years old with 30-40 years of service. I can pretty much tell you who will be next.... I hope they don't put anyone else through what they've done to me, it's hard to find a job at my age.
  • Channel Register (United Kingdom): Somerset County Council to review 'shambolic' SAP system. IBM contract in public spotlight (again). By Kable. Excerpt: In opposition, the Conservatives criticised Somerset CC's Southwest One "secretive" outsourcing deal with IBM. Now the party is in control, after beating the Liberal Democrats in last week's county council elections. "Lately they've made some awful mistakes, and it's those mistakes we need to put right," Ken Maddock, Conservative group leader, said of the Liberal Democrats after his victory. Speaking to BBC News, he said he would interview Somerset CC's chief executive, Alan Jones, who introduced Southwest One, today.

    In campaigning for the election, the local Conservative Party criticised aspects of Southwest One, the county's joint venture with IBM, Taunton Deane DC and Avon and Somerset Police, and promised a review. The attacks focused on Southwest One's use of SAP software for paying invoices. Somerset CC's Conservative group complained that the system's start date had been delayed several times and was failing to pay suppliers, risking the stability of local businesses. It added that, as an emergency measure, the council was paying invoices of under £20,000 without checking their validity.

  • Mid-Hudson News Center: IBM plans for the future, trying to save the planet. Excerpts: IBM unveiled initiatives Thursday that will help keep the Hudson River vital and alive. There are plans to create a supercomputer named Watson that is supposed to play Jeopardy and be able to correctly answer a question in three seconds, and IBM wants to make the medical industry more efficient and create technologies that will better manage our energy grids.

    IBM has been doing research for nearly a decade in the region on these applications, but as Big Blue looks to future, it does so competitively by making changes in its workforce, laying off workers in the region, and causing those over 50 to worry, fearful of losing their jobs. Despite layoffs, the company continues to invest “heavily” in New York State, the Hudson Valley and R&D, said IBM Senior Vice President and Director of Research John Kelly.

    “We always retrain people as best we can – but we’re in a very competitive market and technologies change. So, as a business, we must remain competitive, but our employees remain our most valuable resource.”

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM plans for the future, trying to save the planet" by "ignatz713". Full excerpt: Despite layoffs? I guess that's it? That's all the press the firing of 10,000 employees and the ruination of their lives are going to get? I'm impressed at the clout IBM has over the media.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM plans for the future, trying to save the planet" by "cybertramp66". Full excerpt: John Kelly: "...but our employees remain our most valuable resource." Hahaha, how can these IBM execs spew this BS with a straight face. But of course all these media outlets are run by corporatists so they won't call them on their lies.
  • Charlotte Observer: Companies often won't reveal much about layoffs. Some firms fear details about job cuts will trigger bad publicity, but others are embracing openness. By David Ranii. Excerpts: Computer maker Dell's refusal to disclose how many employees it laid off at its Winston-Salem plant this spring triggered a full-blown controversy. City officials were upset because in 2004 they offered $20 million in incentives to lure Dell's manufacturing plant to Winston-Salem. Some of that incentive money depends in part on the number of jobs created. With an unknown number of job cuts, the officials lacked an up-to-date employee tally. Mayor Allen Joines complained the company's stance was “not acceptable to our community.” Although the criticism aimed at Dell's secrecy was unusual, it's not uncommon for companies to be tight-lipped about job cuts. ...

    IBM often doesn't disclose layoffs or even confirm that they have occurred. The company employs more than 10,000 at its Research Triangle Park campus and has had gone through several rounds of local layoffs recently. “IBM… complies with all legal requirements in the U.S. for job notification,” spokesman Doug Shelton said. “With acquisitions, divestitures, movement across businesses units, hiring and reductions, our population is constantly changing.”

  • Wall Street Journal: Firms Shed India Centers to Cut Costs in Recession. By Ben Worthen. Excerpt: Many Western companies that opened centers in India to perform back-office tasks on the cheap have recently sold or closed those facilities, reversing a decade-long trend as companies look to slash costs and eliminate headaches during the recession. Citigroup Inc. and insurance firms AXA SA and Aviva PLC, among others, have sold offshore computer-programming shops and other operations to companies in India over the past year. Some have received hundreds of millions of dollars for their centers, while others have sold their sites for the cost of the equipment inside. Almost always, the buyer gets a multiyear contract to provide the same services back to the seller. Other companies, including Delta Air Lines Inc. and UAL Corp., have shut down centers in India during the past few months.

    The moves represent an about-face from earlier this decade, when companies raced to open so-called captive units in India and other countries where workers cost a fraction of those in the U.S. At least 500 Western companies have such centers in India, according to estimates by several research and consulting companies. In the first quarter, four more companies opened offshore centers in India, says consulting company Everest Group.

  • CNN/Money: Big companies make hay off stimulus. The nation's largest businesses are raking in billions on stimulus projects ranging from nuclear waste cleanup to restocking food banks with chicken. By David Goldman. Excerpts: Big companies, ranging from AT&T to Dell to FedEx to Tyson Foods, are among those cashing in on the billions of dollars of federal stimulus money that is rolling out the door. Some $4.3 billion of federal money is already funding more than 1,500 projects. Of that total, 85%, or $3.6 billion worth, has been funneled to big business. "Out of the gate, the big players are getting the lion's share, but that's not unusual," said Tim Dowd, chief executive of Input, a consulting firm that provides information about government contracts. "Companies have to have the infrastructure to handle a big pile of money being dropped in their lap and be able to put it to good use." ...

    Large firms like IBM, GE, Boeing and Cisco said they are ready and able. "As our [Smarter Planet] campaign has been formulated and put out in the marketplace, we're seeing a lot of government customers calling us and asking us for help," said Gerry Mooney, IBM's general manager of government. For example, Mooney said IBM has talked with local governments about the Department of Transportation's grants to ease congestion in cities. He said IBM has the technology to help implement a smart traffic project, calling it a "sweet spot that we're well-positioned for."

  • CNN/Money: Tech cos enlist Democrat to blast Obama tax plan. By Kim Dixon. Excerpts: A group of technology heavyweights, including chiefs of IBM and Motorola Inc enlisted a former Clinton administration economist to beat back President Barack Obama's plan to boost some taxes on overseas profits. The Technology CEO Council recruited Robert J. Shapiro, a former top Commerce Department official, who wrote a report released on Monday arguing that significant jobs losses could occur under Obama's plan. Last month, Obama introduced a proposal to raise $210 billion over a decade in part by tightening tax rules on income earned abroad. The administration says current policy spurs job creation overseas, while U.S.-based multinational companies say precisely the opposite is true.
  • Channel Register (United Kingdom): Indian outsourcers prepare for US trade war. By Joe Fay. Excerpts: India’s outsourcers are girding their loins for a trade war with the US over Barack Obama’s attack on US companies who export jobs and hide profits overseas. President Obama outlined a plan last month to encourage US firms – especially tech outfits – to stop spinning jobs overseas. The idea of “US jobs” being done by cheaper foreigners horrifies Americans. Except when it comes to nannies, gardeners, waiters etc. ...

    Yesterday, India began its counterattack. Som Mittal, president of trade group Nasscom, told a meeting in Bangalore, India, that the US administration’s plans could spark retaliation from Delhi, if they started hurting India’s crucial outsourcing industry. The Times of India said that Mittal warned that if the US followed through on its protectionist threats, "This war could get started off”.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension message board: "Re: Book: Pension Dumping: The Reasons, the Wreckage, the Stakes for Wall Street" by "bits_bytes_and_bugs". Excerpts: Some think the IBM strategy of cutting costs by moving from skilled, dedicated, experienced professionals in established nations to low skill, ill-trained, high-turnover, low quality resources in low cost countries - regardless of whether those global resources can perform the work - will risk bankrupting the company by 2015.

    People at the lowest levels of the corporation know that global resourcing is failing in product development and in services, but that truth is blocked from reaching Sam and his team because anyone carrying that message would be fired.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension message board: "Re: IBM Joint Survivor Pension Option - Percentage" by Janet Krueger. Full excerpt: Having left IBM after 30 Years, I have to take my Pension and am trying to decide how to evaluate the different options of Joint Survivor and what percentage to take. The two extremes are 0% Option and you buy Life Insurance to make up the difference, and 100% which covers your spouse but you give up $8,000 or more in income each year. How has anyone in the IBMPENSION Yahoogroups made that decision?

    Ms. Krueger replies: Sit down with a life insurance agent and see what life insurance would cost to buy your spouse equivalent coverage. Make sure you get an actual estimate, not a "This is how much it will cost *IF* you pass the physical and no red flags are raised." Also, make sure you're not just getting an estimate for a term policy where the cost will go up over the coming years.

    Then sit down with your spouse and decide how much coverage you need. If you can buy life insurance cheaper elsewhere, then take the 0% option and purchase the desired amount elsewhere. Otherwise, purchase the percentage from IBM using the surviving spouse option that gives you the desired amount.

    My analysis suggested that in general, it is better for women to purchase a life insurance policy from somewhere else, while it is better for men to purchase using the pension surviving spouse option. This is because the actuarial tables relied on by IBM don't seem to factor sex into the equation. They could have fixed that in the decade since I left, though.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension message board: "Re: IBM Joint Survivor Pension Option - Percentage" by "hankharty". Full excerpt: If I remember the numbers correctly, it cost me about 14% to get 100% survivorship coverage with restore. I took 100% joint annuitant coverage for the following reasons:
    1. Avoids the hassle of dealing with insurance salespeople, qualifying for a policy and passing medical tests, monthly or quarterly payments for the insurance forever, and ever increasing rates as time goes by. They have been known to provide one quote initially, but by the time you pass the medical and get the life insurance, it costs a whole lot more. It is best to have the insurance in force, BEFORE choosing 0% joint annuitant coverage. Of course, an insurance salesperson will give you a whole different story.
    2. The hit on the monthly pension amount is state and federal 'tax-free' money. You don't get taxed on money you didn't receive. The premiums for life insurance are usually paid with after-tax dollars.
    3. The spouse would continue to receive the same monthly annuity if the retiree dies first. Market conditions will usually affect the annuity an insurance policy will purchase. There is no worry about some slippery salesman/broker making off with a large lump sum payment after my death.

    Your mileage may vary, but maybe this list will help provide some additional ideas for you to consider.

  • USA Today: Michael Moore takes the bull by its horns, finds a new focus. Excerpts: With all the muck seemingly raked, Moore was planning an encore of sorts, going after George W. Bush again with a film that, he said a year ago, would focus on "all the other things they got away with over the past eight years while we were all distracted with the war." But circumstances soon delivered Moore a more current villain: the financial industry.

    Moore says it wasn't hard to change gears. "When we started out to make this film, I didn't have an end point," he says. "It was: If we're open-minded we'll run across things we otherwise wouldn't have seen." Then, as he puts it, "KA-BOOM!" The fraud was exposed, and bailout fever began.

    The still-untitled movie is set to debut Oct. 2, and much of what it will feature remains secret. But the firebrand filmmaker reveals he has been literally following the money. Right into oblivion. "During the past eight years, the top 1% have made off like bandits. And they were making all this money by convincing the average American to go into more and more debt," he says. "So it wasn't real money they were making. It was pretend money."

  • Wall Street Journal: Pro-Business Group Targets Obama Agenda. By Christopher Conkey. Excerpts: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it will spend $100 million in an effort to stem the "rapidly growing influence of government over private-sector activity," in a major new move by the powerful business group to counter the Obama administration's regulatory agenda. The Chamber's new campaign, which comes as Congress is gearing up to debate a big overhaul of the health-care system, drew a quick response from groups supportive of the Obama administration. ...

    Chamber president Thomas Donohue said his organization is launching its "Campaign for Free Enterprise" because an "avalanche of new rules, restrictions, mandates and taxes" could "seriously undermine the wealth and job-creating capacity of the nation." Funds from the Chamber's campaign will be largely spent on advertising and lobbying.

    Meanwhile, the Service Employees International Union launched a campaign to counter the Chamber's effort, including an online ad that juxtaposes a businessman stuffing cash in his pocket with a child who has no health insurance.

    "The Chamber is now spending $100 million to roll us back to the ways of the Bush administration," said Anna Burger, secretary-treasurer at the SEIU. "We don't need more of their policies. We need new policies." ...

    For the Chamber, the decision to kick off its campaign also has strategic value. Some of the group's members, including Johnson & Johnson, have objected to the Chamber's opposition to climate-change legislation designed to lower emissions of greenhouse gases. Focusing on a broad defense of the private sector is "a way to separate this debate from an individual legislative battle," Mr. Donohue said. ...

    John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, a group that represents chief executives of large corporations, also saluted the Chamber's announcement. He said several of his member company CEOs are meeting with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and other administration officials Thursday to push for free-trade agreements and against the Obama administration's international tax proposal.

  • MarketWatch: New times call for new tools. Retirement-planning software needs an overhaul. By Robert Powell. Excerpt: In the past year, improbable financial events became all too real, calling into question some commonly-held beliefs about retirement planning -- and forcing a closer look at software tools that use probability models as a basis for helping people prepare for retirement. These days, savers, retirees and advisers are looking in the rearview mirror, questioning the value of software that failed to live up to its billing. Likewise, firms -- perhaps validating the notion that such software failed -- are rolling out new versions of their retirement-planning tools in hopes of meeting the needs of savers in a world where nothing is guaranteed.
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  • Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 06/05/09: 16 months ago IBM sold its Network Services Division to AT&T, both IBM and AT&T held hands saying this would be a great thing for both organizations. NOT! Today, the IBM & AT&T relationship is strained and many issues exist regarding scope, costs and other areas. In fact, Price Waterhouse was brought in to mediate between the two orgs to resolve a lot of the issues. Its good to see IBM get a taste of its own outsourcing medicine. I hope IBM's cost case is blown wide open and they pay more for Network Services than when IBM had it. Now you know what customer feel! -Told You So-
    • Comment 06/06/09: IBM managers are only around now to see the RA's happen. Most have little if any technical skills, little if any IT savvy and need their staff pets to do their Microsoft Office work. Since they can't do any real IT IBM is forced to keep them as managers. That's pretty pathetic. -anonymous-
    • Comment 06/06/09: I was RA'd back in 05 but still speak regularly with former co-workers who are still with IBM. Whenever I mention this site and advise them to take a look and spread the word I'm met with silence or a quick subject change on their part. It's almost as I told them I just saw a UFO or something, they just don't seem to want to hear about it and I believe it's definitely the fear thing mentioned in the previous post. It's like "right now I still have my job and there's no way I'm jeopardizing it. Too bad because slowly but surely they're time will come. -reply to emotional response post-
    • Comment 06/06/09: I was always struck by the absolute power that 1st line and 2nd line managers apparently have in IBM, even though they either have no IT skills or are very rusty. I have seen ruthless behavior and vocal rudeness that is apparently unchecked and overlooked, and would not be tolerated in social groups or society outside IBM. Why are these managers not trained and supervised? A few behaved like guards in an Iraq prison IMO, or police in a 3rd world country. -Former IBMer-
    • Comment 06/06/09: IBMers trying to "keep their head down" doesn't mean they will still have a job. At will employee means you can always be RA'ed. An IBMer has absolutely no job protection. Yes, it is amazing that when they find out about the Alliance they generally ignore or dismiss the subject. I guess that kool-aid they serve is extra strong these days! -anonymous-
    • Comment 06/06/09: -Former IBMer-: I have seen ruthless behavior and vocal rudeness that is apparently unchecked and overlooked, and would not be tolerated in social groups or society outside IBM. Why are these managers not trained and supervised? I've known a couple of 1st line managers who said that they loved the "Blue" training, but that they're not allowed to practice it. IBM still apparently trains its managers for the IBM of yore. Then, dumps them into the IBM of today, where they quickly see that fear and intimidation are what those above them use to manage, and those are the tools they're given to manage down as well. I've known a few 1st line IBM managers who tried to treat their people with respect and as professional adults. All of them have since been whacked. It seems that the worst a*holes are the ones who survive. -irRational-
    • Comment 06/07/09: All, If you were RAed recently, please note the Job Cuts Stats tool in the sticky note at the top of this page. It will crunch the numbers from your RA package (PDF) and tell you the RA totals by age. Please report the totals here so we can all see. I wonder if IBM hit its goal of 16,000 yet? The "IBM Values" book was a cookbook!! -Cooked 25yrs-
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    • Comment 06/04/09: 401k+ plan transitional credits end on 6/30/2009 according to the NetBenefits IBM 401k+ plan description. -sby_willie-
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News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • Washington Post: How the White House Hopes to Control Health Care Costs. By Ezra Klein. Excerpt: You've heard the line that "entitlement reform is health reform." Yesterday, at a meeting between Barack Obama and Senate Democrats from the Finance and HELP committees, that line grew up and graduated into something altogether sturdier: A policy. Senate sources confirm that the president argued in favor of a genuinely major Medicare reform -- a reform that could make Medicare the nation's most important laboratory for health care reforms.
  • New York Times: Obama to Forge a Greater Role on Health Care. By Sheryl Gay Stolberg. Excerpt: After months of insisting he would leave the details to Congress, President Obama has concluded that he must exert greater control over the health care debate and is preparing an intense push for legislation that will include speeches, town-hall-style meetings and much deeper engagement with lawmakers, senior White House officials say. ...

    “We must attack the root causes of skyrocketing health costs,” Mr. Obama said, pointing to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and other institutions as among those that offer high-quality care at low cost. “We should learn from their successes and promote the best practices, not the most expensive ones. That’s how we’ll achieve reform that fixes what doesn’t work and builds on what does.”

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension message board: "Re: The Many Hidden Costs of High-Deductible Insurance" by "cybertramp66". Full excerpt: Enjoy decent medical coverage while you're working. Many people are doing OK with their employer plan. The real trouble starts once you lose the job and the employer is out of the equation. Everyone is one layoff or firing away from financial disaster.

    US spends 15% of GDP on health care. All other industrialized nations pay 7% or less and they have universal HC -- no one goes bankrupt due to illness.

    Don't believe the TeeVee ads that warn against universal HC. The campaign is being coordinated by CRC Public Relations (paid for by Rick Scott and HC industry), the group that masterminded the "Swift boat" attacks against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, and is inspired by the "Harry and Louise" ads that helped torpedo health-care reform during the Clinton administration.

    Rick Scott, is a multimillionaire investor and was the controversial former CEO of Columbia/HCA. Columbia/HCA plead guilty to a massive array of fraud charges - which resulted in a fraud settlement of $1.7 billion dollars, the largest in U.S. history. Details on Scott and these Ads here... http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/6/5/92910/15565

  • New York Times: State Coverage Model No Help for Uneasy Insurance Industry. By Kevin Sack. Excerpt: In reasserting his support last week for a new government health plan for the uninsured, President Obama stoked the fears of private insurers that they would not be able to compete with a Medicare-like option and might gradually be priced out of existence. The Obama administration has sought to reassure the industry, with its substantial lobbying might, by pointing to the three dozen states that offer their employees a choice between government-backed insurance options and a menu of commercial policies.
  • Kaiser Health News: Taxing Health Benefits Could Be Used To Pay for Expanded Coverage, Drive Out Unnecessary Care, Some Say. Excerpts: Economists say taxing health benefits not only could raise billions per year for health care reform efforts, but also could make the system run better, NPR and KHN report. The reasoning: "When you tax an activity, you get less of it. When you subsidize an activity, you get more. 'We're subsidizing health insurance,' said Katherine Baicker, an economist at Harvard's School of Public Health. 'So we're getting more and more and more health care consumed.'" Discounts skew decision making, NPR reports, and getting rid of the tax breaks for employer-provided health benefits could help rein in unnecessary treatments while boosting enrollment.

    "'Some estimates suggest 30 percent of health care dollars are going to care that does very little to promote health,' Baicker said. 'Meanwhile, uninsured people don't have access to care that would very much improve their health.'" But union leaders are fighting hard to keep the tax break they say they've won for their workers over years of hard negotiation and that taxing the benefits could provide a political torpedo to those seeking to derail reform. "Supporters say any tax could be limited to affect only the most generous insurance policies and perhaps only wealthier workers. Such a limited tax could still raise significant revenue to expand health care and could still make the system more efficient. In the coming weeks, though, as plans are debated on Capitol Hill, what's efficient is likely to take a back seat to what's politically doable" (Horsley, 6/8).

  • New York Times: Overseas, Under the Knife. By Arnold Milstein, Mark D. Smith and Jerome P. Kassirer. Excerpts: One consequence of the high cost of medical care in the United States has been the rise of medical tourism. Every year, thousands of Americans undergo surgery in other countries because the allure of good care at half the price is too good to pass up.

    Average total fees at well-regarded hospitals like Apollo and Wockhardt in India are 60 percent to 90 percent lower than those of the average American hospital, according to a 2007 study by the consulting group Mercer Health and Benefits (where Dr. Milstein is affiliated). Even compared with low-cost American hospitals, the offshore fees are 20 percent to 50 percent lower.

    Most medical travelers seek cosmetic procedures like facelifts and liposuction, but an increasing number have high-risk operations like heart surgery and joint replacement in places like India, Singapore and Thailand. ...

    Which Americans consider this option? Typically, they are people who have either no health insurance or meager coverage. Though not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, they cannot afford a good health plan. But lately, even some people with good coverage have been encouraged to take advantage of cost savings abroad.

  • New York Times op-ed: This Time, We Won’t Scare. By Nicholas D. Kristof. Full excerpt: Perhaps you’ve seen those television commercials denouncing health care reform as a plot to create a Canadian-style totalitarian nightmare, and you feel a wee bit scared.

    Back in the election campaign, some people spread rumors that Barack Obama might be a secret Muslim conspiring to impose Sharia law on us. That seems unlikely now, but what if he’s a covert Canadian plotting to impose ... health care?

    Rick Scott, a former hospital company chief executive, leads a group called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights. He was forced to resign as C.E.O. after his company defrauded the government through overbilling and is now spending his time trying to block meaningful health care reform by terrifying us with commercials of “real-life stories of the victims of government-run health care.”

    So here’s a far more representative “real-life story.”

    Diane Tucker, 59, is an American lawyer who moved to Vancouver, Canada, in 2006. Like everyone else there, she now pays the equivalent of just $49 a month for health care.

    Then one day two years ago, Ms. Tucker was working on her office computer when she noticed that she was having trouble typing with her right hand. “I realized my hand was numb, so I tried to stand up to shake it out,” she remembered. “But I had trouble standing.” A colleague called 911, and an ambulance rushed her to the nearest hospital.

    “An emergency room doctor met me at the door, and they took me straight upstairs to the CT scan,” she recalled. A neurologist explained that she had suffered a stroke. Ms. Tucker spent a week at the hospital. “The doctors were great, although there were also a couple of jerks,” she said. “The nursing staff was wonderful.” Still, there were two patients to a room, and conditions weren’t as opulent as at some American hospitals. “The food was horrible,” she said. Then again, the price was right. “They never spoke to me about money,” she said. “Not when I checked in, and not when I left.”

    Scaremongers emphasize the waits for specialists in Canada, and there’s some truth to the stories. After the stroke, Ms. Tucker needed to make a routine appointment with a neurologist and an ophthalmologist to see if she should drive again. Initially, those appointments would have meant a two- or three-month wait, although in the end she managed to arrange them more quickly.

    Ms. Tucker underwent three months of rehabilitation, including physical therapy several times a week. Again there was no charge, no co-payment.

    Then, last year, Ms. Tucker fainted while on a visit to San Francisco, and an ambulance rushed her to the nearest hospital. But this was in the United States, so the person meeting her at the emergency room door wasn’t a doctor. “The first person I saw was a lady with a computer,” she said, “asking me how I intended to pay the bill.” Ms. Tucker did, in fact, have insurance, but she was told she would have to pay herself and seek reimbursement. Nothing was seriously wrong, and the hospital discharged her after five hours. The bill came to $8,789.29.

    Ms. Tucker has since lost her job in the recession, but she says she’s stuck in Canada — because if she goes back to the United States, she will pay a fortune for private health insurance because of her history of a stroke. “I’m trying to find another job here,” she said. “I want to stay here because of medical insurance.”

    Another advantage of the Canadian system, she says, is that it emphasizes preventive care. When a friend was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic, he was put in a free two-year program emphasizing an improved diet and lifestyle — and he emerged as no longer being prone to diabetes.

    If Ms. Tucker’s story surprises you, you should know that Mr. Scott’s public relations initiative against health reform is led by the same firm that orchestrated the “Swift boat campaign” against Senator John Kerry in 2004. These commercials are just as false, for President Obama is not proposing government-run health care — just a public insurance element in the mix.

    No doubt there are some genuine horror stories in Canada, as there are here in the United States.

    But the bottom line is that America’s health care system spends nearly twice as much per person as Canada’s (building the wealth of hospital tycoons like Mr. Scott). Yet our infant mortality rate is 40 percent higher than Canada’s, and American mothers are 57 percent more likely to die in childbirth than Canadian ones. In 1993, the “Harry and Louise” commercials frightened Americans into abandoning health reform. Let’s ensure those scare tactics don’t work this time.

  • Wall Street Journal: How to Stop Socialized Health Care. Five arguments Republicans must make. By Karl Rove. Excerpt: It was a sobering breakfast with one of the smartest Republicans on Capitol Hill. We can fix a lot of bad stuff President Barack Obama might do, he told me. But if Mr. Obama signs into law a "public option," government-run insurance program as part of health-care reform we won't be able to undo the damage. I'd go the Republican member of Congress one further: If Democrats enact a public-option health-insurance program, America is on the way to becoming a European-style welfare state. To prevent this from happening, there are five arguments Republicans must make.
  • Wall Street Journal: Obama Stumps for a Public Insurance Option. By Laura Meckler. Excerpts: President Barack Obama gave his most enthusiastic endorsement yet for creating a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers, the most contentious aspect of the developing health-care legislation. The idea is backed by most Democrats in some form, with liberals particularly committed to it. But Republicans and many industry groups are fiercely opposed, saying it would inject too much government control. ...

    "I … strongly believe that one of the options in the [health-care insurance] exchange should be a public insurance option," the president said. "And the reason is not because we want a government takeover of health care...but we want some competition. If the private insurance companies have to compete with a public option, it will keep them honest and it'll help keep their prices down."

  • Wall Street Journal: More Small Firms Drop Health Care. By Dana Mattioli. Excerpt: Accelerating health-care premiums and sharp revenue shortfalls due to the recession are forcing some small companies to choose between dropping health insurance or laying off workers -- or staying in business at all. Sheryl Weldon, owner of Commerce Welding & Manufacturing Co., saw health-insurance payments increase to more than $800 monthly per employee from about $200 five years ago. With monthly revenue down 10% since December, Ms. Weldon stopped providing health coverage to employees, including one being treated for prostate cancer, for the first time in the 64-year-history of the Dallas sheet-metal company. ...

    That follows earlier declines in coverage, with just 38% of small businesses providing health insurance last year compared to 61% in 1993, according to the trade group. In 2007, 41% offered coverage. A Hewitt Associates survey found that 19% of all companies plan to stop providing health-care benefits in the next three to five years.

  • New York Times: Obama Takes His Health Care Case to the Public. By Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Robert Pear. Excerpts: President Obama, taking his case for a health care overhaul directly to the American people, on Thursday vigorously defended his call for a government-sponsored health plan to compete with private insurers. But back in Washington, a leading Senate Democrat seemed to be looking for a compromise that would limit government involvement. Mr. Obama came to Green Bay, a city he praised for getting “more quality out of fewer health care dollars than many other communities,” as part of an intense push for overhauling health care, his highest legislative priority. But with his insistence on a “public option” generating increased skepticism on Capitol Hill, he defended it as necessary to spur competition in the marketplace. ...

    “Right now a number of my Republican friends have said, ‘We can’t support anything with a public option,’ ” he said. “It’s not clear that it’s based on any evidence as much as it is their thinking, their fear, that somehow once you have a public plan that government will take over the entire health care system.”

    But Mr. Obama neglected to mention that some centrist Democrats have qualms about a new government health plan. Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the chairman of the Finance Committee, who is leading an effort to draft a health care bill, said Thursday that the public plan could take the form of an insurance cooperative that would be owned and operated for the benefit of its members, but not run by the government. “I am inclined, and I think the committee is inclined, toward a co-op,” Mr. Baucus said. “It’s not going to be public, we won’t call it public, but it will be tough enough to keep insurance companies’ feet to the fire.” ...

    In the Senate, Republicans expressed alarm at the shape of legislation being developed by Senators Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, both Democrats. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, called the bill “the most liberal bunch of gobbledygook I’ve seen in my life — a complete liberal mishmash of ideas.”

Vault Message Board Posts
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Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. Sample posts follow:

  • "Business Plan Hit" by "Tweetie_Bird". Full excerpt: Obama is making good on his election promises, whether IBM and other tech companies like it or not. The charade of the alleged lack of tech workers in US is about to come to an end. It'll come out that the real problem is lack of cheap, slave tech labor is the real problem as far as IBM sees it. Their only answer is to move the company HQ overseas, which has always been part of the plan. Unfortunately, doing it too soon could hurt the brand permanently.
  • "Is it too little, too late" by "civilliberty". Full excerpt: I suspect IBM is beyond the point of no return. Anything Obama does is a belated effort to address a long entrenched problem. Now IBM has developed its greedy appetites arising from the wage differential of lower cost resources, they'll just find another way to frustrate the governments of this world who seek to stymie their efforts.

    The only way for this to turn around is for significant company failure as a result of off-shoring so that it falls out of favour, but who will have the skills (or the inclination) to help rebuild an on-shore effort of that happens. Many people in OZ are steering away from computing as they are sensible enough to see it is heading off-shore. There will be a generation that has no idea about system design, development and project management because companies like IBM no longer invest in western resources.

If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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