Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A People's Health Care Proposal

A solution starts with... No one owns the health of young-healthy people but young healthy people alone, or else you are a collectivist. They should enjoy their fortune for their own benefit, but they should be mandated (as in the tax interpretation of the mandate) to save their insurance cost in case of an emergency through a health care savings account, and with 401k free money type of contributions.

Universities should not force students to buy insurance through their university-own or university-provided health care. College students are relatively young and healthy, and universities exploit this to their advantage, not the student's advantage. At the end of a four year degree, students are coming out with student-loan debt and without having saved for their health care during their healthier years. Universities do not own, and should not benefit, from the health of the young and healthy.  

Regulate employers health related contributions so that it is used for the profit of the insured, not the employer. Some employers use health care as part of the compensation package which allows them to game the system to their benefit, not the employee. Comapnies like Google and Facebook employ individuals who average 30 years old, and google has recently been accused of discriminating against older individuals. Is this because health care costs is part of the equation in who they prefer to hire? People with well funded health savings accounts would help revers age discrimination.

People with average health, should pool in risk pools of their choice--foreign or local. Individuals and families should be able to use your savings to schedule procedures with a different health care provider, or in another state or country where cost is significantly lower.

The safety net was meant for old, extremely sick and poor people and they should be helped by the government. No arguments about this. We have to help those in need, but define a clear metric to draw a line so that the system is not abused and remains sustainable. 

Think of this people's health plan as a normal distribution. With relatively few healthy (self-insured) and extremely-sick (government-insured) people in both extremes of the distribution, and with the majority of people in the bulk of the bell shape figure buying insurance of their choice that range from health savings accounts to 'Cadillac' coverage. 

Make people in government more responsible for their health care cost.

Force the full disclosure of the health care bills to people, and pass malpractice reform so that people sue for any abuses. Force hospitals to list the cost of standard procedures, and if a procedure is not standard and has additional cost, disclose the reasons for that. No one will fight an unfair bill like some one who is paying for it from his/her own funds, and this will help keep costs in check. Malpractice law suits should be a right to any patient, but it should be reigned in just enough to limit abuse and to benefit patients, not lawyers, or unfairly punish doctors. 

Prohibit companies from sending 'unpaid' bills to people that have already been paid by insurance companies. The bills--or invoices of the cost an list of procedures--should have a large red notice across that tells the bill has already been paid or not. 

For those who exceed a reasonable minimum in their health savings account, allow for part of their health savings to be used towards the purchase of a house, to increase the equity of their house by reducing the principal, home improvement, or lower the mortgage of a property they already own.

 Allow health saving account funds to be invested in safe bonds and equities. No speculation should be allowed with this money. 

This idea should be rolled out gradually, and it should start with forcing the young to save for their own health only so that no one else benefits from their health. When the young-and-healthy grow old and they have saved enough for their own care, or pass it to their children who would then have a head start in their health saving accounts, then we will have an increasingly improving generational people's health care system that is sustainable and reduces costs.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The half empty March for Science is Co-opted

I don't just love science. It is my hobby, my daily occupation, my endless search for truth. My love for science is only second to that for my family.

Science is not a collection of axioms, knowledge, conclusions, hypothesis and theories for me. It is a model that I improve as I observe the universe through my senses, and that I constantly put through tests, revisions and modifications.

Science is this mindset that helped me moved on from religion to science at age 13. Later on in life, it helped me go through a bachelors in Computer engineering and Chemistry, a PhD in Applied Mathematics and Statistics to computational biology, and a one year postdoc in genetics.

It is this same restless search for a more accurate understanding of the world that has made me change political affiliations since I arrived from Colombia at the age of 18. I went from Democrat to Republican to Independent as my exposure to the culture, language and the American political landscape increased over 26 years. Such pragmatism led me to vote for the ultimate outsider in american politics, Donald J. Trump. The reasons are complex and not without careful consideration, very much unlike the ideological certainty that traps many of his opponents on both political parties.

I have felt the disdain of both religious conservatives and  secular liberals thanks to my non ideological, unaligned set of views both in science and politics. I sometimes wish I could delegate my views to some celebrity scientist out there whom I would stand behind on every issue, but that is intellectually lazy. I do not fit anyone's mold. I always find edges of disagreement and difference of opinions with other scientists.

This introduction helps me explain why I do not feel compelled to attend the march for science. It is not what scientists do in my opinion. I imagine a march for science to have two groups walking in parallel from each other on different issues, or even walking towards each other in a peaceful collision course. That is science to me, not the seemingly agreeable march in opposition to the incarnation of the boogieman or no one really at all.

Something even more profound keeps me from marching for science. The march is co-opted by people with different agendas. It takes place the same day as Earth day 2017. I think both earth and science would deserve their own march. And if everyone in the march were to be granted an exclusive day to march for their own agenda, the march would break down into a very large number of little picket lines with little in common. Those little marches would have to take place in Pluto to fit that many different opinions in the calendar year. Science is then use as the secondary concept to join a very diverse group of individuals who care more for other subjects that are only marginally associate to science. The march is effectively co-opted.

Different opinions in a march for science should resemble a non interacting ideal gas with only fortuitous rigid collisions that change the direction of atoms in a classical way. In this analogy, atoms represent individuals, and classical ideal gases represent intuitive, free and unbiased thinking. If all atoms in an ideal gas are ever to be found in one side of its containing adiabatic box (a box without outside influences) while the other half is empty, then this possible---but cosmologically rare event---would resemble tomorrows march for science.

How can most people be on only one side of the ideological spectrum while claiming to be pro science in this march? Don't they realize that their claim of the truth in science intimidates dissenting scientist who make the other half of the 'box' paradoxically and conspicuously empty?

Such abnormal distributions of individuals' scientific views would remain paradoxical even if 97% of scientists remain in one half of the box and the other half of the box contains only 3%. Aberrations like this one happens when science supporters are classified with a sort of ideological litmus test or binary choice.

More specifically, the following are some of the points that will make me stay home the day of the march for science.
  1. Previous marches like this one are full of hateful signs that wrongly associate supporters of certain policies and politicians with racism, xenophobia and whatnot. The generalizations are wrong, intimidating and evidently hateful. Those they claim to be hateful show no signs of hate like those in this marches. The few marchers who hold this signs ruin it for me. It is simply upsetting.
  2. The anti science narrative only have a weak foundation on government budget cuts to science. The national debt was doubled in the last eight years. We should blame irresponsible spenders, not fiscal hawks, for making science funding unsustainable.
  3. I am considered a 'denier' of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. The term 'denier' implies the existence of 'believers', aka the consensus. The perennial conflict of science with religious beliefs in the past makes the term 'denier' a very poor word choice when applied to dissenting scientist by self proclaimed pro science individuals.
  4. I live in the bay area, and I have the persistent fear that I am outed as a Tump supporter, and people will attack me . If I go to the march it would be with my daughter. After seeing anarchists at Berkeley silencing and attacking people, I cannot conceive putting my daughter in such situation. Even if someone tells me the chances for that are close to cosmologically rare. I would say nope; I will not attend with my daughter.
  5. I am running the San Francisco Marathon to raise funds for a non profit science project. As part of my training, I am running half a marathon the morning of the same day of the march for science. It is just my way of caring for science: no talk, just action. I will probably be in bed during the march.
The non profit project I am working for is called Open-insulin (Link to fundraising page).  I hope that the readers that find this blog somewhat interesting donate to this truly pro-science good cause. The project is ran by volunteer scientists who want to discover a new recipe that would lower the price of insulin and increase its availability to diabetes patients. The recipe would be given out to humanity as an open source project.

After thinking a lot about the march for science and why I would not feel comfortable in it, I came to an intriguing realization. Who is really against science? I thought hard about someone who has openly and objectively declared him or herself completely anti-science, not just on a few aspects of science, or allegedly anti science by others, but totally, overtly and self described anti science. The search for that person took me some time.

Even the Ayathollah and Kim Jong-un are very pro nuclear science.

Just before I was about to declare the bogeyman the recipient of the honor of being the only plausible individual against science, the memory of Ted Kaczynski, the unabomber, came to my mind. He was an anti technology anarchist who attacked scientists with home made bombs. But he is serving multiple life sentence without the possibility of parole. He is really not worth a march.... Who else would truly be anti science like him? Nobody worth mentioning. There is really no need for anybody because the march for science is co-opted by people with their own agendas and ideological beliefs.