Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oil Drilling in Whittier Hills?

The debate over drilling for oil in the Whittier Hills is getting nasty and rude. Opponents of the idea should be allowed their space to exercise their freedom of speech by publicly expressing their opinion and concerns with dignity and respect without belittling individuals. Politicians who must resort to name-calling do not demonstrate qualities of desirable professionalism and ethics. When the time comes when politicians shut the voice of the people out, then it’s time to clean-up government. After all, this is supposed to be a democracy, isn’t it? Politicians were sworn to protect and defend the Constitution. Who was the Constitution written for when the preamble of it states: “We the People…”

I highly support our City Council -- they are very dedicated to the City of Whittier. But more importantly, the freedom of speech of the people, either pro or con, guaranteed by the First Amendment must be defended. And, I must respect this above all else. Both sides must be granted a voice, equally and honorably.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bank of America Automatic Bill Pay System Flaw Double Debits Checking Account

A week ago, I attempted to pay my regular monthly bills in advance using the automatic bill pay system provided by my bank, Bank of America, which allows me to schedule payments via their website and provides a convenient way to avoid writing separate checks and placing them in the mail.  Anticipating my regular monthly disability deposit and considering that I would be hospitalized due to vocal cord surgery for the following two days, I used the system to schedule automatic bill payments in advance, knowing that there were insufficient funds at the time.

When I was completed entering all my payments for the pay schedule, I clicked on the “submit” button only to receive an error message indicating that the system could not process the requests and to try again later.  I assumed that the system was down for maintenance.  So I tried again later in the day only to encounter the same error message.  Okay, perhaps, I thought, it wasn’t permitting me to schedule payments in advance because there were insufficient funds in my account.  So I elected to defer the attempt until after the deposit was made and after I was discharged from the hospital, hopefully a day later.

Fortunately, the hospitalization was just an overnight stay.  I was released the next afternoon after a 24-hour observation period.  When I came home, I made another attempt to schedule bill payments using the same system, this time, I had success.  The system accepted my request and I was able to get a confirmation printout of the scheduled payments.  It did not allow me to do this on Monday.  Little did I realize that payments were actually queued in the system in the background without my knowledge for the day that it claimed was having problems processing my request.

When I checked the balance of one of the credit cards, I noted that there were two payments posted on July 22nd, and July 23rd consecutively.  I only authorized payment for July 23rd.

When I examined the checking account via the website, I discovered that the system made two payments for ten items totaling over $1,286.16.  The ten items were paid twice resulting in an overpayment of about $643.  These transactions practically cleaned out my checking account.  One set of payments were automatically made on July 22nd without my authorization or knowledge.  Then a second set of payments to the same companies were made the following scheduled day, July 23rd, as expected.

When I called customer support to get my money back, they were absolutely helpless.  They claimed there was nothing that they could do because the funds were already disbursed electronically.  How ironic, they could take your funds out within minutes, but in order to get your money back, it takes days, even weeks while these companies collect a profit off your money!

To add insult to injury, they said that I would have to contact each payee individually myself because of privacy protection laws.  I think this is pure laziness and poor customer service.  After all, it’s their programming blunder that caused this error in the first place.  Can’t they take responsibility for their own problems?  Where’s the accountability?  In my opinion, this is just nothing more than irresponsible employees trying to hide behind the “big white elephant.”

Corporations, especially banks, need to protect their customers’ accounts better.  Obviously, no one was monitoring these transactions.  Sure, they all blame it on the computer for causing these problems.  I blame it on humans for faulty programming and not managing the computers to begin with.  Pointing the fingers at computers is just a cloaking mechanism to hide poor quality of personnel and management.  If they are so quick to point fingers at computers for their errors and blunders, then customers should be concerned and have cause to quickly move their accounts elsewhere.

Consumers beware, check your bank accounts daily.  Your bank’s computer system could be debiting your accounts more than once.  Sad part about it, your bank wouldn’t even care to help get your money back.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Make Corporations Pay for Their Blunders

                BP’s oil disaster reminds us how delicate the Earth is when we try to explore for oil in parts of this planet where we really should keep our hands off – like off-shore drilling.  No, our lust for oil has caused corporations and executives to think they are more powerful than nature and take on the forces of nature.  Who wins?  The answer is obvious.  Let this be a lesson.

                But, we all know that executives don’t learn lessons very well.  In fact, they will take this tragedy and attempt to make a profit from their blunders.  They have already attempted to bribe people along the Gulf Coast by offering bribes in exchange for not being sued.  An obvious attempt to save some money.

                Okay Mr. President and Congress – here’s the message from the people, if you care to listen.  We will not be victimized by their blunders by higher gasoline prices at the pumps just because they have failed to stop the oil spill in an expedited matter.  Their finger-pointing has only caused more resources to be wasted which in turn is an excuse for executives to claim a “shortage of oil” and therefore pass along higher prices at the pumps.

                We will not settle for this charade once again.  It’s about time that the Administration and Congress put a price cap on oil prices – especially if the cause of the shortage is the company’s mistake.  And, for damaging the environment, severe penalties should be assessed against these corporations for taking their time resolving the crisis.

                Congress should swiftly pass legislation that will penalize BP petroleum and its associates a mandatory 50% reduction of gasoline prices at the pump for the next ten years for each day the well remains uncapped.  If this means that it will cause BP to go out of business, then let it be.  Let BP serve as an example of what will happened to corporations if they try to take advantage of a crisis and pass along the cost of its own mistakes to the consumers.  If this causes a price war with other oil companies, then so it shall be.

                It’s about time that the corporations, not the consumers, be penalized for their mistakes.

Friday, March 19, 2010

America’s Health Care System – The Best in the World! …Prove It!

A while ago, President Bush and Rudolph Giuliani proclaimed America’s health care system the “best system in the world.” Are these people delusional? The World Health Organization, according to the New York Times, made the first major effort to rank the health systems of 191 nations. While France and Italy took the top two honors, the United States of America was a dismal 37th in the world. However, America leads the world as being one of the most expensive systems in the world! And, in this writer’s perspective, perhaps the most inefficient system in the world also.

A few days ago, I’ve had one of many visits to the emergency room at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital in Whittier California. This was my second visit to the ER for severe neck pain which, by now, 7 doctors cannot explain the reason for the neck pain. I have already seen an emergency room physician; an urgent care physician; my primary care physician; a neurologist; three otolaryngologists (head & neck physicians); radiologist; one MRI with contrasts which reveals a distended jugular vein. To date, no one except for the radiologist looked at the MRI images. I’ve been told that I have arthritis in the neck and disk protrusion between C2 & C3 in the cervical spine. Yet, the pain is nowhere near the area where they suggest that I am having the severe pain. And nothing relieves the pain.

When I was examined by the triage nurse, I was instructed to wait in the lobby where I waited for an additional three hours to get assigned to a bed. After being put into a bed and initially examined by my nurse, I waited for an additional hour to get seen by a doctor. Four hours had elapsed before being seen by a physician! During that time, I was admitted by the admissions clerk who verified my insurance. I’ll talk about this fiasco a little later on.

Back to the incident with the medical care, I finally was attended to by a physician and then had to wait for another forty-five minutes. Then, I was rudely told by the ER physician that there was nothing he could do for me. His intent was not to treat me – not even my pain. He said that I would have to go back to my doctors to figure out what was wrong with my vocal cord paralysis and hoarseness and the disk protrusion at C2 & C3. But from his point of view, since I’ve already seen seven doctors, there was nothing else he could do. Keep in mind, I didn’t go to the ER for my problems with vocal cord paralysis or disk prolapse. I was in a lot of pain – he didn’t even bother to relieve me for my chief complaint – not even offer pain medication.

To say the least, I was not pleased and took my anger out on the nurse. If it were up to me, the CEO of this facility would have found about this poor treatment. I informed the nurse that I was a commissioner with the city and was not hesitating to using my contacts and acquaintances to bring wrath upon this precious hospital in my city. After all, my feathers were ruffled to say the least. But this would have been too kind. No, my profession as a writer is more influential than any appointed position in a municipality. The pen is mightier than the sword and far more reaching to a larger audience.

After convincing the nurse of my needs, he talked to the doctor and I had orders for medication to relieve the pain and was sent home relieved of a little pain – but, still very much angered by the doctor’s attitude. Are doctors more worried about their liability insurance rather than the oath they took when they graduated medical school? Does money really play a bigger role in determining a patient’s health needs over ethical and moral practice to treat a patient?

Talk about money issues. When the admitting clerk verified my insurance, I was told that Medicare still had an open case for an auto accident that was over a year old in Medicare’s records and showing up in the Hospital’s computer system. The clerk wanted to know if the case should be billed as an auto accident related injury in which Medicare pays through a secondary provider, or does she bill directly to Medicare. In any case, I told her that the auto accident was long settled. Medicare had no business keeping this case open and was advised long ago that the case was settled. Is Medicare that slow to respond, or are they just incompetent? Or, is this just a matter of the “public option” passing the buck.

In my opinion, we have inept medical caregivers that are too worried about liability rather than providing quality medical care. We have an insurance system that is 1) too greedy, and 2) too inefficient. In short, we have a health care system that is broken. And, this health care system is attempting to be reformed by a broken government subsidized by corporations.

What we need is total reform – not just the health care system. But we need total reform of our government, sad to say. Corporations have subsidized our legislative branch of government while our judicial branch has sold out elections to corporations. In short, we have an ineffective government that no longer serves the people by the people, but a government for corporations by corporations. Perhaps we have seen the death of democracy. Has government sold the people out?

Congressional leaders and Senators claim that we have the best health care system in the world. They are only living in Dreamland. Have them experience reality and make them pay for their own insurance private insurance coverage. Let them find out what is covered and what is not. Let them find out what it’s like to be denied coverage or denied treatment. Millions of Americans are living without health care, or even a house.

America’s health care is the best in the world? Prove it! Why isn’t health care still more affordable in the United States to millions of Americans? Why do some people get luxurious care while the majority gets such crappy care? Are men really created equal?