Saturday, June 21, 2008

How to Choose a Health Insurance Plan

These days, landing in the hospital for even a few days can decimate your savings account. That's why it's extremely important to consider the cost, the benefits, and the extent to which your family's health needs are met when choosing insurance. Research the various plans that are available, and determine how specifically tailored they are to your family's health needs and financial abilities, to decide on a plan that is best suited to your lifestyle.
Take this company as an example: Kaiser Health Plan .

Step1
Sign on with the health insurance provided by your employer: It is likely to be the cheapest option you can find. Your employer's carrier may have more than one option for you to choose from (HMO, preferred). If you're self-employed or if your company doesn't offer insurance, you'll have to search for your own insurance.

Step2
Assess your needs, taking into account your current use of health care and your medical expenses for the near future, and decide what services are most important to you and your family. Ask about dependents' coverage. Factor in how much you can afford to spend on monthly premiums and co-payments. If you're single and healthy, your health plan needs will be very different from those of a family with three young children.

Step3
Compare benefits and coverage of key items like monthly premiums, deductibles, co-payments, co-insurance rates, costs for seeing out-of-network providers, preventive care, physical exams, immunizations and the like. Other services that are of interest to your family could include fertility services, mental health coverage, nursing care and long-term care.

Step4
Ask lots of questions: Are your current providers part of this plan? Do you need referrals for specialist visits? How easy is it to change doctors? What hospitals and facilities can you use as part of the plan? What are the procedures for having emergency room treatment approved?

Step5
Find out if benefits are limited for preexisting conditions, or if you have to wait for a period of time before you're fully covered. Some plans may completely exclude coverage of preexisting conditions.

Step6
Research whether there is a fair appeals process available if the company denies treatment, and if these appeals are reviewed by an external, independent agency. Is there a high turnover rate among doctors in the plan? Check if the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA.org) accredits the plan; the Pacific Business Group on Health (HealthScope.org) also offers information on health plans.

Step7
Pick a plan that best matches your needs and priorities based on thorough research. Read all materials and call the health plan representative or conduct Internet research to get any information you are missing. Discuss pre-existing conditions and flexspending plans before making a decision.

Step8
Investigate long-term care insurance. The rising cost of health care and elderly care can demolish your savings if you are incapacitated for long. The best time to buy it is when you hit your 40s.


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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is Apple Paying Their Engineers Too Little? - weird facts

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weird facts - According to salary information collected by new startup Glassdoor, Apple pays its engineers significantly less than competing companies in Silicon Valley. Apple engineers make $89,000 a year, whereas Google engineers can buy four more Segways a year (pre-tax) with their $112,573 paycheck. Microsoft and Yahoo are closer to Google: both companies pay their engineers $105,000 a year. See TechCrunch’s review of Glassdoor for the data.

I wondered how much of a difference this salary disparity made to Apple’s bottom line, so I took a look at its annual 10-K filings from 2003 to 2007. Each of these reports includes, buried among its 170 pages, Apple’s net income and how much it spent on R&D. For simplicity I assumed that the R&D budget was entirely spent on salaries; this isn’t far off the mark in a hi-tech company like Apple.

If Apple were to pay its engineers the same salaries as Google then its R&D budget would increase by 26%. This amount (26% of the R&D budget) is how much Apple saves each year by paying below-market salaries. I calculated what Apple’s net income would have been if it had paid its engineers the same as Google, and these are the results:



Explanation:

* All dollar values are in millions.
* # Employees - from Apple’s 10-K.
* R&D Budget - from Apple’s 10-K.
* Adjusted R&D Budget - had Apple paid its engineers at the same level as Google, this would have been its R&D Budget.
* Net Income - from Apple’s 10-K.
* Adjusted Net Income - had Apple paid its engineers at the same level as Google, this would have been its Net Income.
* Increase in Net Income - the magnitude by which Apple’s net income was higher that year compared to what it would have been had it paid salaries at the same level as Google.

The Adjusted Net Income is a good estimate, but it’s not completely accurate. For example, the increase in Apple’s R&D Budget would have meant that its expenses are higher, so it would have paid less taxes. But the overall trend is clear.

Here’s the Increase in Net Income in chart form:



In 2003 and 2004, the effect of underpaying its engineers made a huge difference to Apple’s bottom line. In 2003, these savings turned around Apple’s year: from a loss to a small profit. In 2004, they doubled the profit. However, once Apple’s earnings began to skyrocket in 2005, the effect of the R&D savings became much smaller: just 6% of the net income in 2007, for example.

Paying low salaries to its engineers was a lifesaver for Apple during its difficult times. But now that Apple is immensely profitable there’s no more excuse for this practice. In the TechCrunch article mentioned previously, the site’s owner Michael Arrington says: “Apple software engineers make only about $89,000, on average, but they get to create some of the most loved products on Earth.” I’m sure this warms their hearts. But an extra $20,000 a year would make their hearts downright toasty, and their spouses’ as well.

[Via - Hurvitz.Org]

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How To Date Online - weird facts

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Not long ago, many people shunned online dating thinking the only kinds of people they could meet online were super-shy or physically less-than-desireable. Now just about everyone has friends who have successfully met normal desirable people online, and many know one more married couples who met online as well. Here are the steps to take to safely meet quality people online.

Steps
1. Decide what type of online dating site best suits the type of people you are looking to meet as well as your budget. If you are looking to meet a broad spectrum of people, you might try a large public site like Match.com or Yahoo! personals. If you are looking to meet a specific type of person you might try a more niche-focused site like JDate or AsianFriendFinder.com.

2. Subscribe. Keep in mind, there is a broad range of prices for online dating sites. More expensive sites can charge as much as $50 per month. Most sites offer discounts for multiple months purchased at one time. When you are just starting, you should probably buy just one month and see how well you like that site. If you do and want to continue, you can re-subscribe for a larger number of months at a lower monthly rate. Many sites (like EZDate 123 and Plenty of Fish) also have free trials.

3. Take (at least) one good picture. Whether you are a male or female, having at least one flattering, recent photo will dramatically increase your chances for success. Profiles with good pics usually get as much as 10 to 20 times as many e-mails. If you get an overwhelming number of e-mails (often happens for especially attractive females), you can always choose to hide your pic later. If you don't have a good recent pic, some sites offer links to professional photographers. But usually just a digital camera with some decent lighting will do the trick.

4. Create your profile. Each site asks for slightly different information and/or essays. Try to keep it simple, but if you're witty, let that show. The best advice is to just be yourself, since you will find it is very difficult to be convincing acting like someone else. Even still, you definitely want to put your best foot forward. No need to disclose that you're still hurting from your recent break-up or you visit a therapist 5 times per week here. There will be time for that later once someone gets to see the fun, easy-going, more attractive side of you.

5. Identify people you would like to meet. Now for the fun part, browse through profiles or search by keywords to find the people you think you might like to meet. Women, don't feel like you have to wait for men to contact you. It is perfectly acceptable to make the first contact with a man, and you will often have excellent results when you do.

6. Check for reviews about them. Before you meet someone online, or even before you contact them, you should check to see if other people who have met them have entered reviews regarding the truthfulness of their profile. Do this by visiting a review site like TrueDater.com and entering the correct dating site and profile ID for the person in question. If you date the person yourself, you can also enter a review yourself to help future people who will meet them.

7. Contact them. Send them an email or if you prefer, IM them. Be natural, be conversational, mention a detail from their profile so they know you really read it, and make a little joke. Humor is great for breaking the ice and starting the conversation.

8. Talk by phone. After you've traded enough emails to feel comfortable, the next step is usually to talk by phone. This gives you a chance to get to know the other person a little better and get a feel for whether you will have chemistry in person. Don't feel obligated to meet someone in person just because you have talked to them by phone. If you feel uncomfortable or not attracted, you can tell them, "It's been great talking with you. I'm busy the rest of this week. Why don't we talk again next week." This way you can harmlessly end the call without an outright rejection, and if you find you change your mind you can always call them or accept their call next week.

[Via wikiHow]

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Judge reduces trust fund for Leona Helmsley's dog - weird facts

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weird facts - Leona Helmsley's dog isn't quite as well-heeled as she used to be. Manhattan Surrogate Judge Renee Roth has reduced the trust fund for the little dog, named Trouble, from $12 million to $2 million.

The remaining $10 million now goes to Helmsley's charitable foundation.

The 9-year-old Maltese lives in Florida with the general manager of the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel. Helmsley died last August.

The court decision, made April 30, became public Monday.

[Via - SeattlePI]

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Tradition of Russian Cosmonauts - Peeing on a Rocket | Weird Facts

weird facts
The morning of April 4, 2000. Sergei Zaletin and Alexander Kaleri pays tribute to tradition, irrigation wheel of the bus. Astronauts make a stopover on the way to rocket, that is at the final stage before the flight. There do not allow any foreign person. Snapshot - a consequence of the adventurism of the cosmodrome worker and the only documented existence of the urethra tradition.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Suicide calls jump amid foreclosures and economic woes - weird facts

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weird facts - A local hot line has seen a dramatic spike in suicide calls from people in Palm Beach County who are facing foreclosure and can't pay their bills, according to numbers released today.

Since the start of the year, 256 people in the county told operators at the 211 hot line that they were thinking about suicide. Of those, 44 told operators that their main reason was that they had lost a job, were facing foreclosure, couldn't afford to pay their bills or were homeless.

During the same period in 2007, from Jan. 1 to June 10, the hot line received 137 suicide calls from people in Palm Beach County. Only 15 of those gave economic reasons.

The callers' problems seem markedly different than in the past, said Susan Buza, executive director of 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast. Many callers, she said, have tried to find work for months.

One man said he had gotten hurt at work, then was fired. Another told the operators that he and his children were about to be evicted because he couldn't find anyone to hire him.

"They are not seeing any opportunity to get a job. And they are not seeing that this is going to turn around for them in a week or two," Buza said. "They have been out looking for jobs so they are really desperate and feeling that their backs are up against the wall."

Operators at the hot line, which has taken calls for help in Palm Beach County since 1971, "have never seen anything like this," Buza said.

The hot line also serves Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties but has not yet tabulated those suicide numbers.

Buza said she began adding up the numbers after operators noticed a rise in calls from people who could lose their homes.

"When we started looking at it, we were really shocked," she said.

Though the job market is extremely difficult, 211 keeps a directory of local services. Operators can refer people to food pantries, churches, job training, credit counseling, programs that help people keep their homes and government assistance like food stamps.

For help, simply dial 211 from anywhere in the five-county area.

[Via - PalmBeachPost.Com]

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