The Zombie Apocalypse of Republican Health Care Proposals

Newark  I don’t really watch these “living dead” zombie shows, but I’m starting to get the picture by following the various Republican proposals to “repeal and replace” the Obama Affordable Care Act. Here’s my question though? In the movies and television shows are each generation of zombies more disgusting and worse than the ones that came before them?

Certainly that is the case with the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill to take one more shot at this for the right wing before they would have to obtain more than a simple majority of Senators to push these horrors onto the American people. September 30th is the “expire by date” on the Republicans ability to make mischief with 50 votes, rather than having to go bipartisan with a super-majority.

Let’s look at this version of the healthcare apocalypse though.

A spokesperson for Kaiser Healthcare said it was almost impossible to imagine a bill so bad that it hurt even more people and that had less support from anyone.

Blue Cross/ Blue Shield, AARP, and other insurers, who have been largely silent in earlier versions of the bill, have all mobilized to oppose this version because they argue it will wreck havoc with insurance markets by destroying a national system and making it a state by state battleground.

Thirty-six states will immediately get less money from the Graham-Cassidy bill, if it succeeds. The pain will be especially pronounced in some of the blue states like New York, California, and Oregon, and generally in those states that expanded Medicaid for their citizens, but even the fourteen states that might see themselves as “winners,” have to understand it’s only temporary. By the 2020s part of the impact of this bill is not the simple devolution of healthcare responsibilities and the money that pays for them from the federales to the states, but a cutting of Medicaid dollars period, which will create a huge hole in state budgets everywhere and reduce many red states in the South to the healthcare delivery standards of third-world nations.

Economists argue that even the sponsors of the bill don’t seem to have a clear idea what’s in the language. For example, Cassidy and Graham have claimed it continues to protect those with preexisting conditions, but reading the bill it’s just not in there.

There is no cost estimate on the bill from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office nor is there a score on how many will lose coverage under this bill. The best estimate is that 30 million will be pushed off of insurance.

So, why are we worrying that this zombie may end up ruling our world, rather than having a stake driven through its heart? God knows, but it seems to be just a case of politics divorced from the impact of health and harm to the public. The Republicans are so desperate to fulfill an absurd promise that they willing to pretend a mangy dog is Lassie on the way to save you.

If there’s something you can do, do it now, before this zombie stalks the land and leaves million dead or dying.


AI and Algorithms Are Not That Smart and Could be Dangerous without Supervision

Little Rock Artificial intelligence or AI, as people are starting to call it fairly routinely, and the algorithms that crowd around us everywhere, are muscling into every part of our lives in ways we don’t clearly understand, but that increasingly demand our attention. We are making a mistake by relaxing our concentration and relying on them without caution and careful observation.

Let me give some examples.

In Greenville, Mississippi the other day before a meeting we were chatting about computers and how we depended on them. My friend argued that if he wasn’t working, he would have a flip phone still, rather than a smartphone. He then told me a story both hilarious and frightening. One of his grandnephews had passed away as a teenager of cancer. He was talking to a much young grandnephew and trying to both console and counsel him. His nephew had asked him why his cousin had died. My friend explained cancer and in brief the search for a cure, and ended by saying perhaps his nephew would end up becoming a doctor and helping find the cure when he grew up. The boy nodded as he listened, and then looked at his uncle and said, “Maybe so, but if not, I’ll ask Siri for help.” Siri is of course the robotron voice on Apple devices. We both laughed hard, but the other thing at work was how much the young boy already depended on this detached AI voice for his way forward.

Of course Amazon and Facebook are headline news example of shortcuts and greed failing to supervise their algorithms. Facebook of course is having to explain how its vaunted AI and algorithms allowed people to search out racist, misogynist, and anti-Semitic folks to be their hater buddies. A report by Pro Publica pulled their tail, and CFO Sandy “Lean-In” Sandburg drew the straw to go public on this by saying she was personally offended by it, but leaving the nagging question of why they had to be told this was a problem and didn’t know already? Oh, and of course they also allowed Russian fronts to create fake groups as long as they paid them $150,000 so that there was no nevermind. Amazon makes billions by tooling its algorithm so that when you buy item x, they will suggest that people who buy x, also usually by y and z with it. Someone had to pull their sleeve about the fact that their algorithm was helping people build bombs by linking the needed elements together. Whoops – bang!

Interviewing Edward Hess of the Darden Business School at the University of Virginia about his new book, Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age on Wade’s World on KABF makes all of this seem like child’s play. He wants to trigger a conversation by business, policy makers, and the rest of us about the tech revolution that is coming from these same directions. He argued that the job displacement would be many factors more than we saw in the Great Depression and that the impact would dwarf the Industrial Revolution when it took 60 to 80 years to recover the jobs. This is a revolution that takes the breath away once we start twisting our worry beads. His advice was start retraining yourself today because everyone from bottom to the top professionals could find themselves in the unemployment line without new skills.

I’m already running as fast as my legs can carry me just trying to keep up, but all of this is a warning to pay attention, ask hard questions even of the robots, and start planning your own survival strategy.