District 191 to Self-Insure Employees

According to this article in SunThisweek, the Burnsville/Eagan/Savage school district plans to move to self-insurance to help limit rapidly rising premiums. While this may seem like a good idea on the face of things, depending on the age and health status of the district’s employees this could be a real disaster for both the district and especially employees who have health problems.

From the article:

Officials hope that self-insurance – in which the district, not an insurer, collects premiums, pays claims and maintains its own reserve – will help them get a handle on ever-spiraling health care costs.

Under Medica, the district’s premium was capped at a 12 percent increase next school year, but was projected to skyrocket by 50 percent the following year, Schmid said.

Over the last decade, premium hikes have averaged 11 to 14 percent a year, Board Member Ron Hill said.

The school district believes it will be able to better control the associated costs by managing its own health insurance; however, a recent New York Times article notes how these sorts of plans are attractive to employers because it limits premium hikes but these sorts of arrangements could really drive up the costs associated with the healthcare system setup by the federal government:

When companies are self-insured, they assume most of the financial risk of providing health benefits to employees. Instead of paying premiums to insurers, they pay claims filed by employees and health care providers. To avoid huge losses, they often sign up for a special kind of “stop loss” insurance that protects them against very large or unexpected claims, say $50,000 or $100,000 a person.

Such insurance serves as a financial backstop for the employer if, for example, an employee is found to have cancer, needs an organ transplant or has a premature baby requiring intensive care.

[...]

Stop-loss insurers can and do limit the coverage they provide to employers for selected employees with medical problems. As a result, companies with less healthy work forces may find self-insuring more difficult.

[...]

Insurance regulators worry that commercial insurers — and the insurance exchanges being set up in every state to offer a range of plan options to consumers — will be left with disproportionate numbers of older, sicker people who are more expensive to insure.

That, in turn, could drive up premiums for uninsured people seeking coverage in the exchanges. Since the federal government will subsidize that coverage, it, too, could face higher costs, as would some employees and employers in the traditional insurance market.

So while this could help with limiting local taxes and associated levies, if more districts (and other businesses) opt for self-insurance, our federal tax rates could begin to soar in order to cover healthcare for more people.

What do you think about this one? Are you concerned this plan may backfire on the district or do you see it as an excellent opportunity to save tax dollars? If lots of companies begin to offer self-insurance do you see the federal government working to limit their availability if it begins to seriously rise associated costs with the government plan? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Restaurants Beg for Reviews and Compensate Authors

As I’ve been touring the culinary scene around San Francisco I have noticed several places are offering discounts, like the one seen above, to customers for writing a review. While this is a terms of service violation for the site, it hasn’t stopped businesses from doing it. I have long suspected one local restaurant which doesn’t have that great of food for doing this because I see regular updates on Urbanspoon for them and all glowing reviews. No other restaurant around town is getting that sort of traffic on Urbanspoon so they must be doing something to game the system.

Knowing that these sorts of systems exist, do you put even less weight in the online review sites out there? Would you take up a restaurant on their offer for 20% off for a review? Can you guess which restaurant locally I’m talking about? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

SAS Global Forum 2013: San Francisco, CA

This week I am in San Francisco for SAS Global Forum 2013; my annual trip to talk about being a data nerd in front of thousands of other data nerds. While I am giving a talk this year, due to how busy I’ve been for work (~10 weeks at 70 hours), I haven’t had much time to prepare (well, honestly, not at all) for my talk so I’m giving a short and sweet version of a post today.

I have done some food touring including eating at Thai Idea Vegetarian which looks like your standard Thai menu until you realize all of their meat offerings are vegetarian faux meats. It was beautifully plated and tasted great but the best part was spending time to catch up with an old friend, so much fun! On Sank’s recommendation I walked into Chinatown and down to Delicious Dim Sum for, well, dim sum and darn if it wasn’t delicious and super cheap!

Yesterday, a spur of the moment decision was made by a previous coworker’s new team to take a cab to the Golden Gate Bridge and walk across it. I didn’t even know you could do that except in zombie movies. So off we went, just before a foggy sunset and made the 40+ min walk taking pictures and enjoying the view.





Have you ever been to SF? If so do you have any must-do recommendations for things to see or do while people are here? Food to eat? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

WCCO Viewers Do Not Have Working Tastebuds

According to this WCCO article, a recent contest surveying more than 8,000 of their viewers came up with a clear winner for Minnesota’s best pizza. Oddly enough, out of all of the pizza places this town has to offer, some of which have earned spots on top 10 lists in the country, the one their viewers may surprise you.

From the article:

Pizza is something practically everyone loves, but not everyone agrees on.

Thin crust or deep dish, anchovies or extra cheese – and who makes the best pie in town?

It’s too difficult a question for us to answer, so we put it to a vote of WCCO viewers.

More than 8,000 people weighed in, and picked a place that got its start at Cleveland and Grand avenues in St. Paul – Davanni’s.

[...]

“There’s nothing terribly romantic about the Blodgett ovens that are behind me,” Stenson said. “They aren’t the wood fired ovens, but they make really great pizzas.”

‘Really great pizzas’? Not hardy. In fact, their pizza ranks lower on my list than Pizza Man and that’s saying something. The pizza is your typical Midwestern pie with too much cheap cheese, not enough crust, and toppings that suffice on $5 Pizza‘s pies. So gross.

Now you have to wonder how a bunch of unknown pizza places such as Old World in Inver Grove and Jake’s in Willmar even got a mention on a site like WCCO. Why would such small places earn even a footnote mention when there are some world class pizza places like Black Sheep around? Either WCCO purposefully limited it to “pizza that is nasty” or the people responding were gaming the system.

What do you think about this one? Do WCCO viewers have working tastebuds if they chose Davanni’s as the best pizza in Minnesota? What parlor would you pick instead? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.