Thursday, October 23, 2008

Universal Healthcare Works

Before the economy took a nose-dive and sucked up almost all available air time in this election, one of the biggest issues the concerned voting Americans was Health Care. It's still a big issue; it's just been dwarfed by the fact that Wall Street has crashed.

I live in Massachusetts, where, since 2006, we have had state-wide universal health care. The bill was signed into law reluctantly by Mitt Romney, our ersatz governor at the time. He was quite open in his opposition to the bill, saying that health care was the responsibility of families. He felt that this move would hurt the insurance companies and drive up insurance costs.

Romney's fears were not realized to a great extent. In Mass., you now have the option to select an insurer on your own, pick from numerous plans, with a wide range of prices. There is a governmental office to help you pay for insurance if you can't afford it on your own. The numbers of the uninsured in Mass have plummeted. Emergency room wait times have dropped because they are no longer the only place for the uninsured to go for treatment for routine problems. The response has been overwhelming: people want to be insured and the universal system works to keep them insured. In the long run, this will mean more preventative care, which will improve the state's health overall and lead to a drop in health care costs.

When I lost my job last year, I couldn't afford coverage under the COBRA system. So, I called a few health insurance companies and found that Blue Cross Blue Shield offered a great plan at $200 less than COBRA. I was very happy with that plan. When my budget dropped significantly this summer, I looked at my options again. I could sign on to my husband's insurance plan, but it would actually cost more to insure me this way (his employer's "family" plan only becomes economical once children come into the picture). So I shopped around again, and found an even cheaper, comparable plan from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

I know one woman who until recently was between jobs, and she didn't want to pay for health insurance in between. She's lucky that nothing went wrong in those six months. But I wasn't willing to take that risk, and so, when I went to the hospital earlier this week, I could focus just on the surgery and recovery, and not worry about how much the stay at MGH would cost me out of pocket.

When John McCain talks about his $5,000 health care credit, that is bunk. For me as a single person, that wouldn't cover my monthly premiums, to say nothing of my deductibles, co-pays, prescription costs, and so forth. The system today is set up to favor the health insurance companies. Here in MA, the companies get plenty of business from the previously uninsured, and a dose of healthy competetion.

I would like to see people all over the country have the same options that I do regarding health care. Universal Health Care Works.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Little Engine That Could

It's October now, and my first semester at Simmons is halfway over. As you might guess, I'm mostly occupied with my coursework, and additionally I've taken on a paid internship to help make ends meet.

I really enjoy my internship, and it makes everything I learn in school instantly applicable. In Quantitative Analysis, I've been learning about charting information and analyzing data, which lines up with the data analysis project I'm doing at work, tracking the efficacy of an email program. The position is in the Communications Office of the firm, and I have a chance to apply the theories I learn in Marketing to the outgoing communications pieces that I work on.

The job is a testimony to networking--my supervisor is a Simmons alumna, and I was introduced through the Simmons career services office.

I'm truly surprised by my ability to handle so much work at once, as well as still keeping in touch with friends and family, and spending enough time with my husband. I hope I can keep this up until December.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Apple: Customer Service Superstars

Meet Christian and Jess. As you might guess from the distinctive plexiglass staircase in the background, these two fine, upstanding Apple salesfolk work at the Boylston Street location. Christian and Jess were so amazingly helpful that I decided they needed a commendation via blog post.

The Background: In my classes, I take notes via my computer, so I don't have to worry about deciphering my own handwriting, and because I can type faster than I can write. This works superbly for my Marketing class, or my Organizational Behavior class. On the other hand, for Economics, I run into some trouble. I am required to sketch diagrams for demand schedules and marginal utility schedules, which can't be done by typing.

I cast about for a solution, and finally remembered my supervisor at my first job having a similar problem. He was teaching distance learning courses to Senegal from Boston, and in the "virtual classroom" had a really difficult time trying to write equations (he taught Physics). His solution was a Wacom Tablet. Think of a mouse mat, but instead of just having a mouse, it also has a stylus. The software integrated with various existing programs so that you could use the stylus just like a pen on the screen. This seemed like the perfect solution to my problem. If I had a stylus, I could simply draw my diagrams right onto the page in my virtual notebook.

A tablet is a complicated piece, and while I could have bought one online, I decided to go to the Apple Store to see what they recommended and to ask how exactly it would work with my MacBook. I did a little research prior to my trip, and had come to the general conclusion that I was looking for a Wacom Bamboo. I was pointed in the right direction immediately, and once I found the item on the shelf, I found myself asking Christian for some help with my questions about how it worked.

Christian was very friendly, and knew immediately that Jess was the person in the store who knew most about the Bamboo. He took me and the product down to where she was, and discovered that she was already helping another customer. I smiled, and said, "That's okay, I can wait for her for a bit." And yet, instead of a "See you later," Christian stayed with me and helped me find some of the needed information from the tech specs on the box, and then we pulled out my MacBook to determine what version of MS Office I was running and if it would be compatible. I really appreciated his interest and earnestness in helping me out.

When Jess came over, she was very enthusiastic about the Bamboo. Jess is an illustrator and uses a tablet for drawing; apparently my need for a tool to draw Econ diagrams was not something she encountered very often. The two of them were absolute poster-children for customer service: friendly, knowledgeable, working together to help me, the customer. And to boot, they taught me a new trick for using Photo Booth: holding the shift key when taking a photo shuts off the flash and holding the option key shuts off the countdown before the photo.

A few days later, I am very happy with my Bamboo. It works brilliantly with the "Scribble" feature in Word's Notebook layout. I can draw to my heart's content, and I really like using it for mousing too. If you're interested in a tool for drawing, do take a peek at the Bamboo.

And if you're in the neighborhood, stop by the Boylston Street Apple Store and say hi to Christian and Jess. I'm sure they'll help you out too.