Today’s computers are smaller and thousands of times more powerful than the ones we worked with during the AI boom, but the problem is still one of programming — getting knowledge into the system in an efficient and usable manner. For that matter, it is hard to envision computers other than robots performing many of these workplace functions, and robots aren’t ready. The better solution then, according to a just-published IBM patent filing (US29228426A1), might be to find a way to suck knowledge out of the experts then inject it into younger, stronger, cheaper employees, possibly even in other countries.
IBM’s proposed Platform for Capturing Knowledge describes how to use an immersive gaming environment to transfer expert knowledge held by employees “aged 50 and older” to 18-25 year-old trainees who find manuals “difficult to read and understand.”
IBM also discusses how its invention could be made available for customers’ use in return for “payment from the customer(s) under a subscription and/or fee agreement.” What we’re talking about, then, is a possible revolution in workplace training, one where a lifetime of experience would ideally be sucked from the mind of an experienced worker to be injected into a trainee and then the older worker discarded.
There are several thoughts that came to mind as I read this patent application. Could IBM really be serious about such a plan? Then I imagined how enthusiastically the idea must have been received at IBM intergalactic HQ in Armonk. What a great idea! Transfer knowledge from old to young, American to Argentinean, or even just hold it in machine storage for later use, disposing of the expert in the meantime.
To see it this way you have to understand one recent IBM mindset, which is that culturally IBM does not believe in job specialization. Anyone can manage anything. Anyone should be able to perform any job. For a company whose motto used to be “think,” IBM is trying to reduce it to “do as instructed.”
This patent is a natural extension of that culture. Though part of being an expert is the ability to figure out new stuff and master it. But when you get rid of the real experts, who is going to figure out the new stuff?That doesn’t automatically fall out of this computer gaming scenario, which teaches functions and techniques, not intuition or actual experience.
Then I thought about that moment late in the tenure of IBM CEO John Opel when someone came up with the bright idea of urging companies that leased IBM mainframes to buy them, creating a huge revenue bubble that grew the company to more than 400,000 employees, setting it up for its 1990s crash. Converting the leases was not, in itself, a bad idea. What was bad was assuming that such huge, essentially one-time, revenue would continue perpetually, which is exactly how IBM saw it. Really. Isn’t this the same thing, only now they are converting employees into some more disposable form? What happens when there are no more experts to convert?
IBM’s greatest threat is its ability to stifle innovation. The way the company is off-shoring jobs and minimizing the value of its support workers demonstrates this. The threat will be when a group of smart folks in China or India realize how things could be done better, then starts taking work away from IBM. They will have access to an army of IBM foreign workers, too, who will bring customer contacts with them.
On the other hand, this application is also typical of an IBM patent. There are many aspects to implementing such a training process — data gathering, information management, software, hardware, etc. — and IBM has patented every part. So if anyone makes a something similar, IBM could sue. If you create gaming software to teach almost anything to almost anyone, this patent may trump you.
In the end it may not matter then whether IBM runs out of experts or not. Just so long as they don’t run out of lawyers.
Sometimes productivity comes from technology, and sometimes it comes from clever new management techniques that help people produce more and better products with less time and effort. This time it's the result of an ancient Viking management technique called "whipping the galley slaves." Step one, whip galley slaves. Step two, imply further whipping of galley slaves. Step three, boat goes faster.
The problem with the Viking method is that galley slaves eventually pass out or die and need to be replaced or the boat stops. The modern American manager has a more sinister technique: Fire some workers and give their work to whomever remains. The truly clever modern Viking will give the left-over worker a fancy new title so that the whole exchange seems like a promotion and hey, promotions usually come with added responsibilities, don't they? They also usually come with raises, but those are off the table as unemployment approaches 10%, and those with jobs rightly feel lucky to have them. "That Viking must think I'm very good at rowing," the contemporary oarsman thinks, "Why else would he dump four people into the frigid ocean while leaving me in charge of the whole side of the ship?" ...
Last week I spoke with Johan Norberg, a senior fellow at the CATO Institute and one of the sunniest of libertarian economic thinkers. He joked that the great tragedy of 2009 is that it's only the second most productive year in human civilization and that years before we had projected that it would be a record setter. The same is true for the U.S. gross domestic product--it will likely come in at $13.8 trillion in 2009, down from $14.3 trillion the year before. Declines are always bad, but $13.8 trillion is still a lot of output. The American worker should be proud.
But I don't see much pride this Labor Day. Rather than being praised for hard work, the typical American has taken it on the chin during this recession. First, the hardworking American has been blamed for our current troubles. They borrowed too much, bought too much, wanted too much and they continue to consume too much. We're now told that the great lesson of the financial crisis is that people should simplify their lives and sublimate their desires.
But nobody at the very top does that. A recent study by the Institute For Policy Studies revealed that in 2008 the top 20 recipients of bank bailout funds paid $3.2 billion to their top five executives. In Wall Street's worst post-Depression year, the average bailed-out bank CEO earned $13.2 million while the average S&P 500 CEO got $10 million. As bank stocks cratered, some execs like Vikram Pandit of Citigroup took $1 salaries, but most executives will make out well in the long-run, getting options with strikes at incredibly low prices. If they can stick it out, Ken Lewis at Bank of America and John Mack at Morgan Stanley could make vast fortunes because of the crisis. ...
Our tax code favors investment over work. That's a simple fact, and even those who believe that dividend and capital-gains income should be taxed at a lower rate than wages will agree. Investment creates jobs, they say. But so does working. Besides, investment requires adequate capital, which lies in the hands of the very few. The United Nations says that as the decade started, 10% of the world's population controlled 85% of the world's assets. While most everyone can offer their labor to society, very few can offer meaningful assets, and the former should be treated as well by the government as those who have money to invest.
In 2001 the Essex Junction plant employed about 8,500 people. In January that number dipped below 5,000. IBM officials say the jobs are only guaranteed for one to three years, but they could last longer, depending on the economy.
However, when I returned and went through my accumulated mail, I found a series of invoices with unpaid balances brought forward and, ultimately, notification that my coverage had been canceled due to non-payment.
I have appealed this, citing the name of the person with whom I spoke as well as providing a copy of my notes from that conversation. However, IBM's response/denial did not address my claim of clerical error on their reply. It was simply a form letter informing me that I could appeal to the Plan Administrator....which is what I had just done!
It seems clear to me that IBM won't miss an opportunity to lop someone off of the roster of COBRA beneficiaries and is just going to try and wear claimants down. Has anyone else experienced or heard of similar problems? Many thanks, Rob
As is now painfully evident, the economic growth of the Bush era was largely an illusion. Poverty worsened during most of the boom years and middle-class pay stagnated, as most gains flowed to the top. In a recent update of their groundbreaking series on income trends, the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez found that from 2002 to 2007, the top 1 percent of households — those making more than $400,000 a year — received two-thirds of the nation’s total income gains, their largest share of the spoils since the 1920s. Because many if not most Americans gained little to nothing from the Bush “growth” years, they have found themselves especially vulnerable to the recession. ...
Policy makers must also resist the reassuring but false notion that renewed economic growth can, by itself, raise living standards broadly. Government policies are needed to ensure that growth is shared. Reforming health care so that illness is not bankrupting — for families or for the federal budget — would be a major step in the right direction.
Palmisano, a 36-year IBM veteran who succeeded Lou Gerstner as CEO in 2003, has done a good job of building on his predecessor's work. In the last six years, Palmisano has shifted IBM's focus further from its hardware roots into higher-margin businesses such as services and software. "They have done a great job of expanding the operating margin," said Marshall, adding that this is expected to grow to 18.5% in 2009 from 16.1% last year. "I think they have the right plan and they are executing very well." Ron Gruia, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan, agrees, citing Palmisano's recent crusade to control expenses.
The patent application is credited to inventors Travis Grigsby, Steven Michael Miller, and Lisa Anne Seacat, on behalf of IBM. Alas, we were unable to reach the authors to see if the markedly sober company has ever put such a device into practice. (Although this journalist can testify, having been subjected to many-a IBM teleconference call, never once experiencing any effort from the Big Blue to arouse me from the inevitable conversational coma.)
Additionally to match job savings IBM has had such horrible performance from the Bangalore site to US customers, they are trying to hire back PM's especially. But don't get your hopes up - the main sources for this are going to be contractors and especially ones out of India (Artech comes to mind).
Additionally the subject of many HR/tier 1 discussions has been the notice that many people were laid off over a year ago and the benefits for UI are up so people are more desperate - guess what IBM has figured out to do? Cut the rates by half, NOT KIDDING - across many positions the funding for positions are cut and the vendors are out trying to get $25 -35 hr for certified Project Managers with PMP certificates. Two people shared their emails with me on this and heard it is going to be bad for anyone who goes back to big Blue as well as for other companies are starting to notice the spike of pay dropping.
Glad I am employed right now and just led an effort to dump Tivoli Maximo in favor of HP, giving them a $2M contract. Don't they even realize that people they get are going to jump the second an offer is a bit higher or the HR costs for getting people who obviously WILL NOT BE HAPPY to be there and show it? This is reading like a copy of Ayn Rand right now and scary... Another note, IBM has now become the largest vendor in Indian IT services Market, guess the 6B site helped with the push to get employees recruited on site. -IBM UC'd-
I had never in my IBM career seen anything like it, and even had to call down a colleague manager in a sister organization for his and his employee’s outbursts. When I advised him that if he and his team didn’t take a more civil tone I would order my employees to NOT have any more conference calls with his team and we would only do business with his group by email, that toned him down and we were able to move forward with a more professional relationship.
Unfortunately (for me), after a few months in the job I realized (because I deeply respected my employees) I could not be an effective executive in that organization, so in spite of being warned against it by my mentors I passed the word up the executive food chain that I was no longer interested in the Band D position. I'd have been happy to be an IBM executive and put forward positive changes, just not there (there was no hope I could change that organization as a Band D executive -- I'd only light myself on fire with my employee-focused posture). Before I could blink I was pulled from the IBM Executive Resource program, rated a “3” performer, and found myself struggling to find any manager in IBM who would hire me (as a manager or non-manager) because I was now seen as a “bottom dragger.”
It took me 18 months to get out of the organization because of my (by then two in a row) “poor appraisals.” I had only been out of the organization and in my new job for six months when I was advised that I had been “selected” as part of the January / February round of “resource actions.”
Although I am still unemployed and have to sell my home to survive, I count it a blessing to have been let go by IBM. Why? Because I did not “fit in,” and because the IBM I joined in 1984, where respect for the individual was a “basic belief,” had long since died and given way to a machine that puts stockholders (and executive compensation) first, customers second, and employees dead last.
Was I a “good” manager? That depends on who you ask. My upline executive team seemed to think I was overly focused on my team, yet my employees would generally tell you they enjoyed working for me. Actually, less than a week ago a former employee of mine wrote me an email message in which he said, “honest engine, I think I would move to Afghanistan if I had the opportunity to work with/for you. Thank you so much for being a treasured friend.” That really touched my heart, because my goal was to make life for my employees as pleasant as I could in an environment where life can be quite difficult.
My current goal now is to move to a company that shares my values -- a company where I can hold my head high and be proud to be an “employee focused” leader. To give you an idea of my thinking, in a recent blog post I wrote: “Great leaders realize that their organization’s best customers will be treated no better than how they treat their employees — and with that in mind they ensure employees are treated as the valuable assets they are.”
Even in my last few years at IBM I knew many other really good managers, managers who did respect their employees and were frustrated as h*** at what they were seeing all around them. In answer to -anon-, even good managers have NO choice when it comes to resource actions. My own manager (one of the really good ones who remains) was near tears when she told me she had to let two of seven people go, and that I was one of the people selected because (yep) of my band level. I knew she had no choice, and actually (no joke) gave her a big, warm hug the day I picked up my separation check. I would gladly work for her any time -- at some other company. -Former IBM Manager-
-gone_in_07- got it right when he said first line managers have no power and if they have any gumption and are willing to take unpopular stands they can find themselves shot out of a cannon. IBM HR keeps a close eye on IBM managers, and know which ones don't toe the line.
To -Anonymous-, I surely do remember the former, annual opinion survey and morale index -- and it was clear to me when IBM canned that many years ago that the executive team no longer cared about employee morale or employee satisfaction. Finally, for those of you who are either still with or once were with IBM and who would like to warn others about the "working conditions" and "treatment" you experienced -- please (as I have done) take a moment to go over to the Glassdoor website at http://glassdoor.com and sign up (it's easy and free) to can enter your own review of IBM. You can see a few good examples here:
The last few years at Big Blue were hell with the company playing manager roulette and us having to get used to a new manager every 12-18 months, many who were just a voice on the phone in a distant city. It's hard to get to know management style and individual hot buttons that way. The manager who hired me was by far the best, he had a personal stake in my success. Many of the other ones were very good but towards the end we began to get the dregs from the bottom of the barrel. The worst ones were ex printer service division managers who were being deployed to the server/high availability divisions to keep their jobs and who had no clue as to why we had callouts around the clock since large printer service tends to be first shift activity.
A contract would stop this nonsense but I feel it's too late, the damage has been done. Management has seen what it can get away with and will continue its evil practices. The large problem is that many IT people tend to be modern day cowboys and don't see the need to organize. They need to remember that the rugged Marlboro man died of lung cancer. -Gladimgone-
I won't go into many more details... but in a completely new organization and division a few years later, I discussed what I saw as a problem with being shut out of meetings that affected my job responsibilities and career growth.... as well as a few "blond jokes" I had to endure. I quickly heard the same script, VERBATIM..... "we have spoken with ALL the team members and EVERYONE had a complaint."
Funny how informal feedback sessions were ALL fine, nothing mentioned to me only WEEKS earlier. And when do managers suddenly round up all the members of a team and ask them about "how things are going" ? No, I don't know if everyone provided 10 good things and 1 bad thing (to improve)... just that they all had at least 1 bad thing to say. I have it ALL documented if you want to compare notes or write a book.
Net net..... if you complain to IBM about discrimination, unfair treatment, retaliation, etc. they come after YOU very aggressively. Speak Up / Open Door? Just a way for HR to see what info you have (call over to EEOC, that's exactly what they will tell you).
IBM can get away with this because no one has the money and the resources to sue and take them on. I think if we have enough of us who can corroborate this treatment we can at LEAST get it out there in the press (I was finally RA'd took the money and can't sue, you too probably). I'll always wonder if the RA "target" was sitting on my back all these years, just waiting for the right situation where they could easily let me go while I was still a 2 and 2+ performer (was I a litigation risk because my past cases were so strong? it was probably only a matter of time before some new chauvinist manager messed up again.) Something has to be done, like the banks and auto companies who are "too big to fail", IBM is "too big" to be sued by an individual. -gotta-b-invisible-
The other result that jumped off the page was the stark contrast between increases in health insurance premiums and overall inflation in the general economy. Premiums went up 5% and prices overall fell 0.7% (mainly driven by a big drop-off in energy prices). The 5% increase we found in premiums is moderate by long-term historical standards. For example, two different times during the last decade premiums increased by 13% a year, in 2002 and 2003. This year's increase continues a multi-year period of relative moderation in premium increases. Still, over the last ten years premiums have increased by 131%, while wages have grown 38% and inflation has grown 28%. Consider this: If people (and businesses) are as concerned as they are now about rising health care costs in a period when they are actually moderating, how much more concerned will they be when rates of increase return to historic averages?
Let's do some very simple arithmetic. Start with a fairly conservative assumption: If we assume that premium increases over the next ten years will average what they did over the last five (about 6.1% per year), the average premium for a family policy in 2019 will be $24,180. That's a big number. On the other hand, if we assume increases revert to the average of the last ten years—an average annual increase of about 8.7% and a very plausible scenario—premiums in 2019 will average a whopping $30,803, a very scary number
But that is not the case here. We have one party that is severely compromised by its ties to big money, and another party that is just plain nuts. There is no other way to parse it. According to recent polls, a majority of its followers either believe that President Obama was born in Kenya or aren’t sure, believe there is no such thing as global warming, believe that the House health care bill calls for death panels to euthanize senior citizens, and believe that Obama is responsible for our economic woes (61 percent!). The only bright side is that according to a recent Pew poll, only 23 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans, which makes them not only a fringe in beliefs but also, thankfully, in numbers.
Republicans haven’t always been like this. For most of our history, America was pretty much like our European allies. We had two sensible parties with different traditions, constituencies, and orientations. The Democrats were the party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Franklin Roosevelt. They saw themselves as representing the common man against larger economic interests, favoring, in the now-common characterization, equality over liberty. Republicans were the party of Hamilton, Lincoln, and McKinley. They saw themselves as representing business interests that would unleash the nation’s entrepreneurial energies, favoring liberty over equality. It was a nice balance, and it served the country surprisingly well for nearly two centuries
Mr. Obama opened his 40-minute speech with what he called “disturbing news”: a report from the Treasury Department that, he said, “found that nearly half of all Americans under 65 will lose their health coverage at some point over the next 10 years” and that “more than one-third will go without coverage for longer than one year.”
In any other rich country, Nikki probably would have been fine, notes T. R. Reid in his important and powerful new book, “The Healing of America.” Some 80 percent of lupus patients in the United States live a normal life span. Under a doctor’s care, lupus should be manageable. Indeed, if Nikki had been a felon, the problem could have been averted, because courts have ruled that prisoners are entitled to medical care.
As Mr. Reid recounts, Nikki tried everything to get medical care, but no insurance company would accept someone with her pre-existing condition. She spent months painfully writing letters to anyone she thought might be able to help. She fought tenaciously for her life. Finally, Nikki collapsed at her home in Tennessee and was rushed to a hospital emergency room, which was then required to treat her without payment until her condition stabilized. Since money was no longer an issue, the hospital performed 25 emergency surgeries on Nikki, and she spent six months in critical care.
“When Nikki showed up at the emergency room, she received the best of care, and the hospital spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on her,” her step-father, Tony Deal, told me. “But that’s not when she needed the care.
By then it was too late. In 2006, Nikki White died at age 32. “Nikki didn’t die from lupus,” her doctor, Amylyn Crawford, told Mr. Reid. “Nikki died from complications of the failing American health care system.” ...
We now have a chance to reform this cruel and capricious system. If we let that chance slip away, there will be another Nikki dying every half-hour. That’s how often someone dies in America because of a lack of insurance, according to a study by a branch of the National Academy of Sciences. Over a year, that amounts to 18,000 American deaths. After Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans, eight years ago on Friday, we went to war and spent hundreds of billions of dollars ensuring that this would not happen again. Yet every two months, that many people die because of our failure to provide universal insurance — and yet many members of Congress want us to do nothing?
On one side are America's biggest private insurers and Big Pharma. They're drooling over the prospect of tens of millions more Americans buying insurance and drugs because the pending legislation will require them to, or require employers to cover them. The pending expansion of Medicaid will also be a bonanza. Amerigroup Corp., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and other companies that administer Medicaid are looking at 10 million more customers. Healthcare Inc.’s Medicaid enrollment is expected to jump by 43 percent, according to its CEO. WellPoint Inc., the largest U.S. insurer, is also looking at big gains.
But the big insurers hate the idea of a public option because it will squeeze their profits. A true public option will force private insurers to compete in markets where there's now very little competition, and also have the bargaining power to force drug companies to offer lower prices. Big Pharma also wants to prevent Medicare and Medicaid from having the power to negotiate lower prices, for the same reason. Private insurers and Big Pharma would rather fudge the question of where the savings will come from or how all this will be paid for. They certainly don't want to pay for wider coverage with a surtax on the rich, because, hey, their executives and shareholders are mainly rich. ...
Private insurers and Big Pharma are being represented in this race by Max Baucus and his Senate Finance Committee. Senate Finance is on the verge of reporting out a bill that requires that just about every American have health insurance and just about every business provide it (or else pay a fee). But the bill will not include a public option. Nor will it change current law to allow Medicare to negotiate low drug prices. Nor will it include a surtax on the wealthy. The Committee's only real nod to cost containment is a small tax on expensive insurance policies, which doesn't worry the private insurers because its cost is so easily passed on to the beneficiaries.
That's true. But powerful trends in the broader economy will. Even without reform, lots of people with employer-provided insurance are losing it. And those who still have it may find they'll be less satisfied with it in the future. ...
Economists have correctly noted that wages haven't risen more in this decade in part because companies are paying more for benefits like health insurance. True. But employers have also been passing on rising costs to employees. And according to a new report by Mercer Consulting, companies are planning on doing a lot of that in 2010. If employers simply re-upped existing plans, Mercer's survey finds, costs would rise by 9 percent. But according to preliminary findings, "respondents plan to shave three percentage points off their annual renewal rates through a variety of cost-saving actions, holding overall cost growth to 5.9 percent next year." How? The "first line of defense" is "shifting costs to employees." Mercer notes that between 2004 and 2008, the median family deductible for in-network services in the type of plan offered by the largest number of employers soared from $1,000 to $1,850. Translation: Employees who used their insurance plans with any frequency saw their wages reduced by $850 in that period. And it looks like there are more such "cuts" coming. Next year, Mercer reports, "nearly two-thirds of all respondents (63 percent) will again ask employees to pay a greater share of health plan costs." Forty percent say they'll ask employees to pay a bigger chunk of the monthly premium, and 39 percent will boost deductibles or increase co-payments. Oh, and 18 percent say they plan to get rid of "more generous health plan options" as a way to move into cheaper ones like consumer-directed health plans. The upshot: Most people who receive employer-based health insurance will either be paying more for the same plan or be offered a plan that shifts more costs on to them.
It's understandable that those who have insurance from their employers are concerned about reform and what they might lose. But those who expect to hold on to the same employer-provided health benefits at the same cost are living on a prayer.
It’s not just the numbers. It’s the intangibles. Two of my children were born in Paris — a breeze. One of them got very sick on arrival in the United States — and my wife fainted in a doctor’s office from the anxiety of finding the appropriate care (when we did, at the eleventh hour, it was excellent). The American health system is an insidious stress-multiplier whose hassles, big and small, permeate already harried lives. ...
The French health system uses a mixture of public and private funding, guaranteeing basic coverage through national insurance funds to which employees and employers make contributions. Most French people supplement these benefits by buying private insurance. The distinctions from the single-payer British system are significant, the results better. So beyond all the hectoring, the main French-American difference on health care is not ideological but a question of efficiency. Both countries use a mixture of public and private. France is at a very far remove from “socialism.” The United States has already “socialized” a significant portion of its medicine. (Nothing illustrates right-wing ideological madness in the United States better than calls from some to “keep the government out of my Medicare!”)
The real difference is that the French state mandates health coverage for everyone, picks up the tab where necessary (as for the unemployed), holds down costs through a national fee system, and uses mainly nonprofit mutual insurers even for supplemental private coverage. The profit motive is outweighed by the principle of universal health care, with a corresponding effect on doctors’ salaries.
These are real distinctions. But the “socialism sucks” Republican broadside on Obama’s reform plans — with its overtone that the “cosmopolitan” president wants to “Europeanize” American medicine — is nonsense. It’s nonsense because the free market is vigorous in France (and Europe), because there are all sorts of European approaches to health (within the compulsory coverage), and because the United States has already “socialized” aplenty without turning its capitalism pink.
Since 1999, health insurance premiums have soared 131 percent -- more than triple the rise in workers' wages and four times the overall inflation rate, the report said. Paul Fronstin, senior research associate at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, said that "employers see raising deductibles as the easiest way to control costs." The higher deductibles are one reason why premiums have been going up more slowly in recent years. "It’s a crude instrument, but it does the job," he said.
Since the conservatives are not honest enough to own up to their true principles in this case, it is worth briefly recapping the argument they put up as a cover. The conservatives claim that if people are given the option to buy into a public plan, then so many people will choose to do so, that it will drive the private plans out of business. The country will then be stuck with only a government-run insurer and patients will have no choice. This will be bad news, because the government can't do a good job providing the American people with health insurance.
The logic of this one is more than a bit difficult to follow. We are supposed to be worried because people will freely choose to go with a government-run insurance system that is badly run and inefficient rather than private insurers. Do the conservatives think that we cannot trust people to make their own choices about health insurance? Is this yet another case of nanny-state conservatives who want to step in to prevent people from making choices that they think are bad for them? ...
Of course, at this point, we are dealing with something entirely fictional that has nothing to do with any proposal currently being debated. The bottom line is that the conservative position is that there are people getting rich running private insurance companies and they want to protect this situation long into the future.
A major business lobby weighed in Tuesday, saying that if current trends continue, annual health-care costs for employers will rise 166 percent over the next decade -- to $28,530 per employee. "Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option," said Antonio M. Perez, chief executive of Eastman Kodak and a leader of the Business Roundtable. "These costs are unsustainable and would put millions of workers at risk," Perez said in a statement.
She was among dozens of Disney workers participating in a noisy protest at the doors of the Anaheim Convention Center last week, on the first day of Disney's D23 Expo for the studio's fans. The employees are at the center of a nasty labor dispute focusing on health benefits that is jolting the self-proclaimed "happiest place on earth." The clash pits image-conscious Walt Disney Co. against Unite Here Local 11, an aggressive union known for its street-theater militancy. On Thursday, union supporters dressed as Snow White, Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters staged a mass "sick-in" while Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger was scheduled to speak inside the convention center.
Under Senator Baucus’s plan, insurers would be permitted to charge older people five times more for their health insurance premiums than younger people. That proposal, first circulated in a Finance Committee policy options paper last spring, is a significant departure from the approaches put forth by three House committees and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Those bills would only allow insurers to charge older people twice as much as younger ones.
“A lot turns on whether it’s a 5:1 ratio or a 2:1 ratio,” said Drew Altman, president and C.E.O. of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “It makes a big difference as to whether a 55-year-old worker will be able to afford health insurance.” ...
Currently, people who get health insurance through their employer generally can’t be charged higher premiums because of their age. But in the individual insurance market, “age-rating,” as it’s called, is common, and only eight states place limits on how much more insurers can charge older people, according to a report by the National Women’s Law Center. In all other states, insurers can — and do — charge older policyholders more, though insurance industry representatives say they can’t pinpoint exactly how much more on average. ...
But some health policy experts argue that allowing insurers to charge older people five times more than younger ones would be a giveaway to the insurance industry, which already stands to benefit handsomely from millions of new customers if, as proposed, everyone is required to have insurance. Proposed health care legislation would forbid insurers from charging sick people more or rejecting them outright. But by allowing insurers to charge so much more for older, often sicker people, “You’re just using age as a proxy for health status,” said Uwe Reinhardt, an economics professor at Princeton University. He estimates that Senator Baucus’s age-rating plan would allow insurers to cover roughly 70 percent of the additional risk they’d take on by being required to accept all comers, regardless of health.
"It was one of the primary reasons I moved here," said Judy Harvey of Prescott Valley, who now lives in Alamos, Sonora. "I couldn't afford health care in the United States. … To me, this is the best system that there is." It's unclear how many Americans use IMSS, but with between 40,000 and 80,000 U.S. retirees living in Mexico, the number probably runs "well into the thousands," said David Warner, a public policy professor at the University of Texas. "They take very good care of us," said Jessica Moyal, 59, of Hollywood, Fla., who now lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a popular retirement enclave for Americans. ...
The program has helped people such as Ron and Jemmy Miller of Shawano, Wis. They decided to retire early, but knew affording health care was going to be a problem. Ron was a self-employed contractor, and Jemmy was a loan officer at a bank. At ages 61 and 52, respectively, they were too young to qualify for Medicare, but too old to risk not having health insurance. "We knew that we couldn't retire without Medicare," Jemmy Miller said. "We're pretty much in Mexico now because we can't afford health care in the States." The couple learned about IMSS from Mexico guidebooks and the Internet. They moved to the central city of Irapuato in 2006, got residency visas as foreign retirees, and then enrolled in IMSS.
Since 1999, health insurance premiums for families rose 131%, the report found, far more than the general rate of inflation, which increased 28% over the same period. Overall, health care in the United States is expected to cost $2.6 trillion this year, or 17% of the nation's economy, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. ...
As insurance costs increase, workers are also picking up a larger share, the survey found. The average employee with family coverage paid 26% of the premium, the study found, but 41% of companies said they are "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to increase the amount employees pay for coverage in the next year.
The insurance industry, of course, loves the Baucus plan. Need we say more?
“There is an image of Canadians flooding across the border to get care,” said Donald Berwick, a Harvard University health- policy specialist and pediatrician who heads the Boston-based nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement. “That’s just not the case. The public in Canada is far more satisfied with the system than they are in the U.S. and health care is at least as good, with much more contained costs.”
Canadians live two to three years longer than Americans and are as likely to survive heart attacks, childhood leukemia, and breast and cervical cancer, according to the OECD, the Paris- based coalition of 30 industrialized nations. Deaths considered preventable through health care are less frequent in Canada than in the U.S., according to a January 2008 report in the journal Health Affairs. In the study by British researchers, Canada placed sixth among 19 countries surveyed, with 77 deaths for every 100,000 people. That compared with the last-place finish of the U.S., with 110 deaths. ...
Private insurers, the pharmaceutical industry and the medical profession fear the “market power” of a public plan, Reinhardt said. They “deployed certain think tanks to find horror stories around the world that can be used to persuade Americans a public health plan in the U.S. would bring rationing.” Given that Congress is likely to pass a mandate to cover the uninsured, Americans forced to buy policies will be left with no alternative to coping with “double-digit rate increases” on commercial premiums, Reinhardt said. ...
As the price of health care in the U.S. has risen three to four times faster than the rate of inflation, surveys show that Americans have become concerned they won’t be able to pay medical bills. Forty-three percent of consumers in a June poll by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor said they worried they might not be able to afford care, even with insurance.
“Canadians value fairness, and they cannot conceive of a system in which someone can’t get health care,” said Wendy Levinson, a Canadian who runs the department of medicine at the University of Toronto and worked in the U.S. from 1979 to 2001.
The U.S. spent $7,290 on health care for each person in 2007, 87 percent more than Canada’s $3,895, according to the latest OECD data. The U.S. also devoted the highest percentage of gross domestic product to health care, 16 percent, OECD numbers show. Canada’s expenditure was 10.1 percent. ...
In both the U.S. and Canada, 26 percent of people interviewed told the Commonwealth Fund survey of chronically ill adults they got a same-day appointment with a doctor when they were sick -- the lowest number in any of the eight countries polled by the foundation. Thirty-four percent of the Canadians said they had to wait six days or more, compared with 23 percent of the Americans. Canadians visited their doctors more frequently: 5.9 visits per person compared with four for those in the U.S., according to 2005 OECD data.
"Unless you're a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, you're one illness away from financial ruin in this country," says lead author Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., of the Harvard Medical School, in Cambridge, Mass. "If an illness is long enough and expensive enough, private insurance offers very little protection against medical bankruptcy, and that's the major finding in our study." ...
Overall, three-quarters of the people with a medically-related bankruptcy had health insurance, they say. "That was actually the predominant problem in patients in our study -- 78 percent of them had health insurance, but many of them were bankrupted anyway because there were gaps in their coverage like co-payments and deductibles and uncovered services," says Woolhandler. "Other people had private insurance but got so sick that they lost their job and lost their insurance."
"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.
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:
We all have to play nice-nice with our GR (global resource) peers. and when your GR team lead sends notes to IBM US mgmt that they need MORE WORK from their US counterparts, IBM mgmt. rolls over and gives them more work. Reminds me of an old CCR song: Fortunate Son.
And when you ask them, how much should we give? Ooh, they only answer more! more! more. What a sad, pathetic, f'ng company.
What's more pathetic is how India is not held accountable since they are Sam's chosen ones and how anyone who reports problems with India are considered anti-team, racist and uncooperative.
The sacred cows over in India aren't cattle, they're the "office boys" pretending to be IT professionals working for IBM. What a sad, pathetic f'ng company indeed.
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