Beware of Your Grocery Loyalty Card

The following is taken from an online article published March 2013. The author lays out a compelling argument why you SHOULD NOT use loyalty cards at grocery stores. He says that if you do be sure to not reveal your correct address or real name.

With the advances in computers and technology information about consumers has been shared in a number of ways. Marketing companies want to know what type of products you buy so they can send you offers. One retail firm, Target, was in the news some time ago because they were sending product offers to people who are pregnant. How did Target know their customer was pregnant? By the products the customer was purchasing – prenatal vitamins for example.

According to one article, health insurance companies are now buying this marketing data to determine if customers have been eating unhealthy. This could matter if you have a health insurance claim. Can they use your store purchasing information to deny your health insurance claim? That may be for a court to decide one day. But the thought is whether a health insurer can identify your purchases of unhealthy food and tie it to your health issue and deny a potential claim.

It does not seem out of the realm of possibility that our grocery stores are selling information about us. Companies want to know as much about consumers as they can. Virtually everything we do is tracked – our online behaviors particularly. Grocery store loyalty cards are not as much about saving money, according to the article we read, but more about using this information to sell to anyone interested in the information.

More Obamacare News

According to one health insurance expert, the following about Obamacare for your consideration:

1) Your doctor will enter all your private information that you share into an electronic data base that will be available to more eyes than you may feel comfortable. For example, to curb gun violence your private health information will be shared if you attempt to buy a gun. What other transactions will you do where your private information will be shared?
2) Develop a relationship with a doctor before you turn 65. Doctors will be paid less to care for seniors on Medicare.
3) Reports suggest Obamacare will reduce your ability to see a specialist, at least initially. I am unsure how this will play out if true as reports suggest that we have a shortage of general practice doctors. Physicians who specialize make more money so who can blame them.
4) Employers with 50+ employees are required to carry health insurance or pay a fine. Many are opting to pay the fine. This leaves you scrambling.
5) Avoid Medicaid. Research suggests that surgery patients on Medicaid are more likely to die compared to those who have private health insurance.
6) Since Obamacare empowers the director of Health and Human Services to standardize medical care for privately insured patients expect more and more regulations to come down the pike. More regulations will not (likely) make life easier for anyone – patient or doctor. That reduces care quality.

Don’t shoot the messenger. Just passing this information along.

ObamaCare News

When ObamaCare was sold to the American people all the right things were said. For example, people were told that if you like your current insurance policy you would be able to keep it. But now that the law is being implemented the news is not all that rosy in every corner.

A large entertainment company is reportedly ending health care coverage for part time workers effective the end of this year. It is reported that such an arrangement is not allowed under ObamaCare.

Another news site reported more than a few businesses are trimming staff in order to meet the 50 person cut off so they do not have to provide health care to employees. Or, some businesses are reportedly cutting hours so employees only qualify as part time.

Oregon’s insurance commmssioner (reported by one news site) stated that he expects health insurance premiums to rise by 30%. Imagine the future costs when this thing is in full effect? For young people this may be a hard pill to swallow as they helped drive the re-election of the President. Obamacare was promoted as a way to reduce overall premiums, not increase them. It appears the new law will raise health insurance premiums and affect the employment of many.

Insurance Fraud on the Rise

Auto and Homeowner Insurance carriers are no stranger to fraud. It happens by the hundreds of millions and affects the auto and homeowner insurance premiums of every insurance-paying-American.

The new code word for fraud is “Questionable Claims”.

2012 appears to be a record for fraud… questionable claims, with California setting the standard for questionable claims with over 20,000. The next highest state was Florida with half of California’s record setting number with a tad over 10,000.

North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming had the fewest questionable claims, which is not that surprising considering the fewer residents who live in those states.

Questionable jewelry theft jumped by 86%. Suspected driver-enhanced hail damaged rose by 35%.

When we hear horror stories about insurance companies not paying claims, my experience is that insurance companies do a pretty good job. Certainly there were some awful stories that came out of the massive hurricane and storms. But on a day to day, routine type claims my experience shows they do a good job considering they handle thousands and thousands of claims every year.

One issue with insurance companies that I can raise – their claims staff are usually over-burdened and over-worked. It’s not uncommon for claims reps to handle thirty, forty or fifty claims at once – juggling as best they can of course.

Have a claim? My advice – treat your claims rep with respect and courtesy. Take notes all along the way of course as you should anyway. But treat them well and odds are your claim will go better – that’s just my take.

Red Light Cameras and Speeding

The Arizona Senate Appropriations Committee voted 8-4 to recraft the definition of a intersection.

One consequence would be that pavement sensors that trigger red light cameras would need to be moved. That would likely result in fewer tickets.

The City of Phoenix purportedly supplied statistics showing red light cameras have reduced injuries and deaths at intersections. However, one Arizona State Senator said the information he needs to change his stance would have to come from traffic safety engineers instead.

Basically, this change means that a driver who is already sitting in the crosswalk when the light turns red would not be in violation.

Photo Radar

The Arizona Senate killed a proposed bill that would have allowed photo radar and red light cameras to be put on the ballet so voters could determine if they want them.

On a 15-14 vote to defeat, the measure would have let voters decide for themselves whether they wanted photo radar or red light cameras.

It has been a long time since I got any kind of ticket, but especially for a parking meter that ran out of time.

Yet, for many, it is a big issue.

Tempe Parking Meters

Downtown Tempe has installed new parking meters that allow drivers to receive a phone alert when their meter is about to expire and and pay via their phone as well. How nice is that? Instead of running out of your meeting and down the street to your vehicle you can simply reload the meter from your cell phone.

Smart phone owners can down load an app at Other cell phone users can call a number posted on the meter to submit payment.

Some meters now accept credit cards as well. This sure beats having to carry a car full of quarters.

The new meters are initially installed in the high need areas such as College Avenue, Mill Avenue and Fifth Street.

Several years ago gas prices went from $2 or so to nearly $4. Consumers reacted with anger. Prices finally subsided.

Now, gas prices are well over $3 a gallon once again and you don’t see the same anger. Are consumers simply resigned to the fact that gas prices are going to be high and there is nothing they can do about it?

We hear alot about going green in the automotive industry – electric cars and hybrids. And maybe it’s a great vision ( I hope so ). Yet, that green vision does not help those struggling today to pay rent and buy groceries when transportation costs are rising due to oil prices and high prices at the pump.

Fossil fuels are not going anywhere anytime soon. There are way too many vehicles and industries that rely on oil and gas. It’s been reported that the United States may once again be a major oil producer due to new technology that has allowed drillers to go deeper than ever to find black gold. If drilling for new oil will help lower costs and let consumers keep more money in their pocket to pay their rent and food, then we should drill.

I know enviromental issues are a touchy issue. Yet, there is a way to move ahead with fossil fuels while keeping an eye on the green movement too. The key is moving along gradually so we do not over-burden people who are on a very tight budget.

The electric and hybrid industries are moving along nicely. Let’s hope technology continues to break open in those industries too.

Crazy Jury Awards

There are many reasons for skyrocketing health costs. One of which is medical malpractice.

Unfortunately, Congress has not worked to rein in the runaway awards being handed out.

March 2010 in New York $60,000,000 awarded in a negligence at birth case
July 2010 in Florida $114,000,000 awarded in a wrongful death suit against a nursing home
January 2012 in Florida $168,000,000 awarded for brain damage from a surgery
August 2011 in West Virginia $91,000,000 awarded for nursing home negligence
October 2011 in Michigan $144,000,000 awarded for negligence at birth
and more and more and more can be listed…..

I am not suggesting bad doctors or health care providers not be punished/penalized. I am not suggesting families not be compensated for their loss.

However, does one hundred sixty eight million dollars remove the pain a family feels following a botched surgery? There has to be a better solution because these types of lottery-looking judgement awards only make attorney’s rich and increase insurance and medical costs/rates for the rest of us.

Caring for Elderly Parents

According to a study, caregiving affects 1 of 4 families, and this statistic is expected to increase as retirees live longer – even into their 80’s and 90’s.

Caregiving can take a substantial emotional and physical toll.

But what about the financial considerations of providing care? Here are some tips.

Hesitate to leave a job or career. While there are only so many hours in a day, quitting work can have a big impact on your own retirement needs or future employment prospects. If you work for a company that provides a 401k match you will give up free money by leaving. And consider how future social security benefits will be impacted.

What about your group benefits? Buying private health or dental benefits may be costly. Research shows that caregivers have poorer health than non-caregivers, a consideration that you cannot ignore your own health care needs.

Suing over the high cost of movies

A friend once asked me about movies on a regular basis. Her reasoning – I used to see nearly ever movie that came to the big screen. I love movies.

Yet, now I rarely see movies that are new to the theatre. Some of that is partly due to my time being more limited than when I was unmarried and had no children. But partly, the cost of seeing newly released movies these days keeps me away

A Michigan man decided to take matters into his own hands. The suburban Michigan security technician sued a local movie theatre over its high cost of snacks. He paid $8 for a can of Coke and a package of Goobers.

While I understand this gentleman’s frustration can’t he simply wait until the movie goes to a cheaper theater (we have $3 theatre here). You may not catch the movie while it is a new release but at least the price of a ticket is half.

Also, if a person feels the costs are exhorbitant, you can simply choose to not go – which is what I do much of the time.

Kudos to Peoria Police Chief

Peoria Police Chief

You can call new Peoria Police Chief Roy Minter a hands on kind of officer. He is directing Peoria police officers to reach out to their community in some unique ways not used before. Not only has Peoria seen a decrease in crime but their community is taking notice.

1) A new program was developed so high school students can now text crime tips to police

2) When reporting for duty, officers now review updated crime maps to determine problem areas and spend extra time and man-power in those areas. This means crimes are fresh and allows officers to spend time in ways that improve productivity.

3) He created the United Community Action Network, so community leaders can gather regularly to discuss community and police activities.

Mr. Minter came to Arizona from Texas when Peoria’s past chief retired. Keep up the good work Peoria and Mr. Minter!

The Reason They Build Jails

As reported in the news, a man named George Houser, along with his wife, ran three nursing homes but squandered the money and left his residents in a bad position.

While receiving $32 million in Medicaid monies, Houser neglected his patients by failing to supply adequate food, causing some elderly residents to border on starvation.

He let the home become in disrepair as well. Leaky roofs were not fixed. He failed to buy the necessary cleaning supplies. There were major staff shortages and safety concerns. Employee checks bounced. Air conditioning systems were not repaired when broken. Trash services went unpaid and rotting trash piled up.

All the while Houser bought a $1.4 million home, several Mercedes Benz, took vacations and planned on building several hotels with his Medicaid money.

He faces up to 20 years in jail.

I know we are not supposed to judge. But good grief, it amazes me when people get so untracked in life to the point where they injure others. How does a person lose such a basic value as not caring for human life that is placed in his care?

While we read stories or watch them reported on in the news it seems like this sort of behavior is becoming commonplace. In another story a man was in charge of investments for his clients but ended up running a ponzi scheme. He took client money and used it to buy homes, travel and live a life that only the few in the world get to experience.

Yet, these are not the common experience of life. Most people are good and decent. Most people care about their fellow human being. Most people will help if asked.

The world is still a good place filled with good people, regardless what the news stories may show.