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October 23, 2012

Doctors inventing dozens of new fees to nickel-and-dime patients

If You Haven’t Seen Your Doctor In A Few Years, Expect To Pay ‘New Patient’ Fee – The Consumerist
It wasn’t until he arrived that he was told his former doctor was no longer associated with the hospital. And it wasn’t until he saw his bill later that he discovered a $164 “new patient” fee. “They said they automatically charge it to anyone who hasn’t been to the facility in three years,” the patient tells Ming. When asked about the fee, a rep for the UC Davis Medical Center responded: Our new patient charge is a fair reflection of the additional time and resources required to get completely up-to-date on a patient who hasn’t been seen in more than three years… The charge is common nationwide because it reflects a clinical reality, which is why health insurance typically covers much of this cost as part of a payer’s negotiated contract with providers. However, this patient’s insurance now doesn’t cover this sort of fee. Thus, it fell on his shoulders to pay something he’d never even known he would be charged. This man could have sued if a garage mechanic added a fee without disclosing in advance, but when it comes to doctors it’s apparently fair game. A consumer advocate with United Policyholders tells Ming that while the fee doesn’t seem very fair, it’s just one of an increasing menu of charges that healthcare providers are dinging customers for. Talking on the phone with your doc? That’s a fee. Need a prescription called in? That’s a fee. According to this report from CBS Minnesota, some doctors are adding a “split visit charge” when patients ask the doctor about something other than the main reason for the visit.

October 22, 2012

Paul Krugman: Why has this economic recovery been so slow?

The Secret of Our Non-Success - NYTimes.com
The answer — backed by overwhelming evidence — is that this is what normally happens after a severe financial crisis. But Mitt Romney’s economic team rejects that evidence. And this denialism bodes ill for policy if Mr. Romney wins next month. About the evidence: The most famous study is by Harvard’s Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, who looked at past financial crises and found that such crises are typically followed by years of high unemployment and weak growth. Later work by economists at the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere confirmed this analysis: crises that followed a sharp run-up in private-sector debt, from the U.S. Panic of 1893 to the Swedish banking crisis of the early 1990s, cast long shadows over the economy’s future. There was no reason to believe that this time would be different. This isn’t an after-the-fact rationalization. The Reinhart-Rogoff “aftermath” paper was released almost four years ago. And a number of other economists, including, well, me, issued similar warnings. In early 2008 I was already pointing out the distinction between recessions like 1973-5 or 1981-2, brought on by high interest rates, and “postmodern” recessions brought on by private-sector overreach. And I suggested that the recession we were then entering would be followed by a prolonged “jobless recovery” that would feel like a continuing recession. Why is recovery from a financial crisis slow? Financial crises are preceded by credit bubbles; when those bubbles burst, many families and/or companies are left with high levels of debt, which force them to slash their spending. This slashed spending, in turn, depresses the economy as a whole. And the usual response to recession, cutting interest rates to encourage spending, isn’t adequate. Many families simply can’t spend more, and interest rates can be cut only so far — namely, to zero but not below.

Maker of terrible video games jailed for not paying employees

How amazing is it for an employer to actually be thrown in prison for not paying people? How much of an asshole must this guy be to get this? Sensory Sweep Studio Owner Begins Jail Sentence for Not Paying 100 Employees | GamePolitics
The owner of Salt Lake City-based Sensory Sweep Studio is going to spend some quality time in jail. David M. Rushton began serving a yearlong jail sentence on October 10 at the Salt Lake County Jail for failing to pay more than 100 employees. He was also fined $1.2 million. Rushton took a plea deal in the rare criminal case for nonpayment of wages brought by the Utah Attorney General's office - but he plans to appeal the verdict to a higher court... "We had occasional paychecks that trickled in. Some people were favored more than others," said Adam Hunter, a 29-year-old game designer now working for another Utah studio. "Much like with an ex-girlfriend, I've just moved on. "I'm a realist. I understand I'm not going to see any money. I'm not as bitter as I was when this all started going down years ago." Hunter, who quit working for the company in 2009, claims that it still owes him $12,000 for work he did. At one point the studio employed about 211 developers and staff, though hunter can't recall anyone ever getting paid... Sensory Sweep Studio's bread and butter was creating games based on movie and other entertainment licensees for home consoles and hand-held systems. Hunter says that the company had a reputation for churning out titles quickly and got a percentage of royalties from moviemakers and others. Sensory Sweep Studio's game credits include Jackass: The Game, Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, Justice League Heroes and Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects.