Breaking the broker business model

I’m not a broker. I’ve never personally sold a single dollar’s worth of insurance to anyone unless you want to count a condom I sold to a buddy for two beers back in grad school. The broker/agent side of the business is one where I’m curious about how it works as the insurance agent selling policies is usually the most public facing side of the insurance universe. The broker/agent model is broken on the individual market.

The fundamental problem is how brokers get paid and who pays them. Brokers who work the individual market and the very small group market are paid by the insurance carriers. Their commission can be a flat fee per covered life per month, it can be a percentage of commission, it can be a combination of a head fee and a percentage. The actual payment structure varies. At the same time, a good broker should be seeking to find the best situation possible for the person who is looking for insurance. And this is where the problem lies.

A good agent will place people into insurance products that are very appropriate for them. We looked at this in March:
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Thursday Morning Open Thread: Who Are You Gonna Believe?

… the record, or my lyin’ ego?

Someday we’ll all get tired of mocking the Debacle, but zingers like “Trump’s face looked like someone making a fist inside a sock puppet” are too good not to share…

Also, because this is 2016, the wearing of clothes seems to have become an election meme:

What’s on the agenda for the new day?

Late Night Open Thread: Bad 1980s Movie Music Video Edition

One of the most interesting early 1980s movie music videos with fight scenes shot in Chicago’s Loop.

Biff! Zapp! Pow!

Good evening good citizens. There has been a request for a lighthearted open thread. And what could be more lighthearted than the trailer for the upcoming animated movie based on the Batman 66 TV show? Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar reprise their original roles. So be sure to tune in: same Bat time, same Bat station!

Long Read: “The Sandy Hook Hoax”

If you stare too long into the abyss… Reeves Wiedeman, in NYMag: “Lenny Pozner used to believe in conspiracy theories. Until his son’s death became one“:

On December 14, 2012, Lenny Pozner dropped off his three children, Sophia, Arielle, and Noah, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Noah had recently turned 6, and on the drive over they listened to his favorite song, “Gangnam Style,” for what turned out to be the last time. Half an hour later, while Sophia and Arielle hid nearby, Adam Lanza walked into Noah’s first-grade class with an AR-15 rifle. Noah was the youngest of the 20 children and seven adults killed in one of the deadliest shootings in American history. When the medical examiner found Noah lying face up in a Batman sweatshirt, his jaw had been blown off. Lenny and his wife, Veronique, raced to the school as soon as they heard the news, but had to wait for hours alongside other parents to learn their son’s fate.

It didn’t take much longer for Pozner to find out that many people didn’t believe his son had died or even that he had lived at all. Days after the rampage, a man walked around Newtown filming a video in which he declared that the massacre had been staged by “some sort of New World Order global elitists” intent on taking away our guns and our liberty. A week later, James Tracy, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, wrote a blog post expressing doubts about the massacre. By January, a 30-minute YouTube video, titled “The Sandy Hook Shooting — Fully Exposed,” which asked questions like “Wouldn’t frantic kids be a difficult target to hit?,” had been viewed more than 10 million times…

“I prefer the term hoaxer to truther,” Lenny said, kicking a pair of jeans and Adidas flip-flops onto the footrest of a leather Barcalounger. “There’s nothing truthful about it.” There is no universal Sandy Hook hoax narrative, but the theories generally center on the idea that a powerful force (the Obama administration, gun-control groups, the Illuminati) staged the shooting, with the assistance of paid “crisis actors,” including the Pozners, the other Sandy Hook families, and countless Newtown residents, government officials, and media outlets. The children are said to have never existed or to be living in an elaborate witness-­protection program…
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Wednesday Evening Open Thread: Going Low

Meanwhile, per TPM:

Eric Trump on Wednesday joined Donald Trump’s surrogates in applauding the Republican nominee for not bringing up Bill Clinton’s sex scandals during the Monday debate, even saying that the moment is “something I’ll always remember.”

“I mean, he very well could’ve looked down—and he said it when he came off the debate stage, ‘I wasn’t gonna respond to that question because I saw Chelsea in the front row and I just wasn’t gonna go there out of respect for her,'” Eric Trump told Iowa radio host Simon Conway, according to a clip highlighted by Buzzfeed News. “And that was a big moment for me and probably will actually become — my life and this campaign — and probably something I’ll always remember.”

He said his dad “really took the high ground where he had the opportunity to go very, very low.”…

Not to worry, though, the kids have figured out the real problem with Dad’s campaign — lousy advisors!

Folks, it’s time to repurpose those playground jokes to target a group that really deserves it…

How many Trumps does it take to change a lightbulb?

Apart from going low, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

This Should Scare the Ever Loving Shit Out of You

Look what it is out just in time to maybe save us all:

The NY Times has a handy review:

Mr. Ullrich, like other biographers, provides vivid insight into some factors that helped turn a “Munich rabble-rouser” — regarded by many as a self-obsessed “clown” with a strangely “scattershot, impulsive style” — into “the lord and master of the German Reich.”

Do say. Sounds familiar. Let’s explore some more:

Hitler was often described as an egomaniac who “only loved himself” — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and what Mr. Ullrich calls a “characteristic fondness for superlatives.” His manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control, even his sanity. But Mr. Ullrich underscores Hitler’s shrewdness as a politician — with a “keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people” and an ability to “instantaneously analyze and exploit situations.”

Link: mendacity


Hrmm. Ok. What else:

Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity” that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth” and editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”

Link: goebbels

Link: trolls


Ok, ok. Two for two. No need to panic, right:

Hitler was an effective orator and actor, Mr. Ullrich reminds readers, adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences. Although he concealed his anti-Semitism beneath a “mask of moderation” when trying to win the support of the socially liberal middle classes, he specialized in big, theatrical rallies staged with spectacular elements borrowed from the circus. Here, “Hitler adapted the content of his speeches to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist and anti-Semitic listeners,” Mr. Ullrich writes. He peppered his speeches with coarse phrases and put-downs of hecklers. Even as he fomented chaos by playing to crowds’ fears and resentments, he offered himself as the visionary leader who could restore law and order.

Link: elites


I sense a trend:

Hitler increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising “to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness,” though he was typically vague about his actual plans. He often harked back to a golden age for the country, Mr. Ullrich says, the better “to paint the present day in hues that were all the darker. Everywhere you looked now, there was only decline and decay.”


Link: ialone



A terrifying trend:

Hitler’s repertoire of topics, Mr. Ullrich notes, was limited, and reading his speeches in retrospect, “it seems amazing that he attracted larger and larger audiences” with “repeated mantralike phrases” consisting largely of “accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future.” But Hitler virtually wrote the modern playbook on demagoguery, arguing in “Mein Kampf” that propaganda must appeal to the emotions — not the reasoning powers — of the crowd. Its “purely intellectual level,” Hitler said, “will have to be that of the lowest mental common denominator among the public it is desired to reach.” Because the understanding of the masses “is feeble,” he went on, effective propaganda needed to be boiled down to a few slogans that should be “persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.

Link: repeat

Link: 3rdgrade

Link: rhetoric


This is legit scary now:

Hitler’s rise was not inevitable, in Mr. Ullrich’s opinion. There were numerous points at which his ascent might have been derailed, he contends; even as late as January 1933, “it would have been eminently possible to prevent his nomination as Reich chancellor.” He benefited from a “constellation of crises that he was able to exploit cleverly and unscrupulously” — in addition to economic woes and unemployment, there was an “erosion of the political center” and a growing resentment of the elites. The unwillingness of Germany’s political parties to compromise had contributed to a perception of government dysfunction, Mr. Ullrich suggests, and the belief of Hitler supporters that the country needed “a man of iron” who could shake things up. “Why not give the National Socialists a chance?” a prominent banker said of the Nazis. “They seem pretty gutsy to me.”


Link: garland


Sweet Meteor of Death:

Hitler’s ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of domestic adversaries who failed to appreciate his ruthlessness and tenacity, and by foreign statesmen who believed they could control his aggression. Early on, revulsion at Hitler’s style and appearance, Mr. Ullrich writes, led some critics to underestimate the man and his popularity, while others dismissed him as a celebrity, a repellent but fascinating “evening’s entertainment.” Politicians, for their part, suffered from the delusion that the dominance of traditional conservatives in the cabinet would neutralize the threat of Nazi abuse of power and “fence Hitler in.” “As far as Hitler’s long-term wishes were concerned,” Mr. Ullrich observes, “his conservative coalition partners believed either that he was not serious or that they could exert a moderating influence on him. In any case, they were severely mistaken.

Link: stein


Go ahead and reach for the bottle, people, if you haven’t already:

Hitler had a dark, Darwinian view of the world. And he would not only become, in Mr. Ullrich’s words, “a mouthpiece of the cultural pessimism” growing in right-wing circles in the Weimar Republic, but also the avatar of what Thomas Mann identified as a turning away from reason and the fundamental principles of a civil society — namely, “liberty, equality, education, optimism and belief in progress.”

Link: losers

Link: winninginbusiness


The next time someone tells you that Hillary and Trump are both equally bad, or that Trump is no Hitler, tell them to shut the fuck up and get the fuck out of your face because you don’t have time for their stupidity and ignorance. You’re going to be out participating in events to get Hillary elected.

*** Update ***

I guess we can throw eugenics into the pile:

Faunasphere: Gender-Free, Multicultural, Anti-Christian Veggie Burgers Edition

1) First, in the LA Times, a vegan activist details the varied flavors of abuse she got after creating a petition asking In-N-Out Burger to add a veggie burger to its menu:

…dozens of vile Facebook screeds calling me: un-American, a fascist, a moron, delusional, an imbecile, fanatical, disgusting, disgraceful, a control freak sociopath, and the worst part of the human race….It turns out veggie burgers persecute religious groups (“You’re attacking a CHRISTIAN BUSINESS and it is WRONG”), seek to destroy American values, and are hell-bent on ruining everyone’s good time.


We have learned that this single menu addition could lead to In-N-Out, and quite possibly the whole country, becoming “a gender-free, multicultural safespace to cuddle in” that’s populated by “the worst types of humans.”

Eternal vigilance and all that… Still! That’s a heckuva fuss to make over a veggie burger. (The petition has 36,000+ signatures right now, btw. Please sign it!)

2) Relatedly, and music to my ears: Reuters reports that a group of forty large investors representing more than $1.25 trillion in assets is urging the top global food companies to shift to plant-based proteins:

“Investors want to know if major food companies have a strategy to avoid this protein bubble and to profit from a plant-based protein market set to grow by 8.4 percent annually over the next five years,” Coller said. The campaign follows an Oxford University study which said $1.5 trillion in healthcare and climate change-related costs could be saved by 2050 if people reduced their reliance on meat in their diet. The study also pointed to growing political pressure on companies to change, citing a consultation in Denmark on the introduction of a red meat tax and a Chinese government plan to reduce its citizens’ meat consumption by 50 percent, FAIRR said.

Among the companies being addressed: Kraft Heinz, Nestle, Unilever, Tesco and Walmart.

3) If you’ve ever had gall bladder problems then you might have some inkling of the agony bile farm bears endure their entire lives—trapped in tiny cages, and with their gall bladders constantly “milked” for bile for use in Asian folk remedies. Happily Laos has just announced that, in compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty, it will close all its bile farms—and all its tiger farms for good measure. (Tigers are also used for folk remedies, as well as the pet and trophy trade.) The tigers and bears will be sent to sanctuaries. (No word on the lions, tho…)

4) Armani goes fur free. (And, btw, a lot of the supposedly fake fur out there isn’t fake. Here’s how to tell.)

5) Personally, I can’t wait for dairy to die:

Some of the nation’s largest dairy producers will pay $52 million to settle an antitrust class action with consumers in 15 states and the District of Columbia….The dairy producers were accused of conspiring to prematurely slaughter more than 500,000 cows between 2003 and 2010 to limit the production of raw milk and drive up prices for yogurt, sour cream and other dairy products.

Fortunately, it doesn’t look like I’ll have to wait long. (See, also, this article on how dairy farmers are converting their land into almond groves. Wheee! And because I know someone’s gonna bring it up: here’s a piece on water use in almond farms versus dairy.)

Looking forward to your thoughts and fauna-related news (and nondairy milk preferences) in the comments.

Two Score and One

The NYT (yes, I’m still occasionally reading it even though I canceled my subscription in a huff…) has an account of how Team Trump is handling the debate debacle and planning to improve on their man’s calamitous performance. An excerpt that describes how things went so wrong:

Mr. Trump’s debate preparation was unconventional. Aides have introduced a podium and encouraged him to participate in mock debates, but he has not embraced them, focusing mostly on conversations and discussions with advisers.

During the primaries, the group briefing him for debates was small and closely held. By the weekend before the debate on Monday at Hofstra University, there were nearly a dozen people preparing Mr. Trump, including the retired Army generals Michael Flynn and Keith Kellogg, neither of whom has experience in presidential debates.

There were early efforts to run a more standard form of general election debate-prep camp, led by Roger Ailes, the ousted Fox News chief, at Mr. Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J. But Mr. Trump found it hard to focus during those meetings, according to multiple people briefed on the process who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. That left Mr. Ailes, who at the time was deeply distracted by his removal from Fox and the news media reports surrounding it, discussing his own problems as well as recounting political war stories, according to two people present for the sessions.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and a friend of Mr. Trump’s who has been traveling with him extensively, took over much of the preparation efforts by the end. But with Mr. Trump receiving so much conflicting advice in those sessions, he absorbed little of it.

The team had primed Mr. Trump to look for roughly a dozen key phrases and expressions Mrs. Clinton uses when she is uncertain or uncomfortable, but he did not seem to pay attention during the practice sessions, one aide said, and failed to home in on her vulnerabilities during the debate.

Trump aides, including revolting sexual predator Roger Ailes and serial 9/11-humper Rudy Giuliani, are casting about for a new strategy so Trump doesn’t get steamrolled during the upcoming town hall-style debate in a week and a half.

But doesn’t the story behind Trump’s shitty debate performance raise a larger question, such as whether a candidate who relies on a degenerate like Ailes, is unable to focus and retain information, etc., is fit for the presidency in the first place? Not to Trump super-fans like the Twittiot below, who are coming up with absurd conspiracy theories to explain why Hillary kicked Trump’s ass:

“Coughing prevention machine”? OMFG! Or maybe it’s a lapel mic power pack — do these people not watch “Ellen”?

It would be odd indeed to wear an earpiece on one’s back. But even dudes — gay or straight — understand that bras often have hooks in the back to allow the wearer to put the bra on rather than the bra magically enfolding the wearer’s boobs, right?

41. More. Days.

[H/T: Buzzfeed story on loopy conspiracy theories]

The One-L “Hilary” Mafia Strikes Again

We’ve got them on the ropes, but they did manage to get a good one in.


From a commemorative ticket given to debate attendees.

Staying in a silo

The parents of my childhood best friend are on their local Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BCBS). They’ve almost always been on BCBS. And that is how they see their insurance. BCBS gets a premium and they get to go today to wherever they could go in the past because that was what BCBS covered. They got hit with an out of network bill for a podiatry visit as they went to a podiatrist that they have seen for years.

The problem is that they just retired. Mr. H hit 65 in May, and Mrs. H turned 65 in June. They had switched their coverage from a BCBS large group employer sponsored plan with a gigantic network to a BCBS Medicare Advantage plan with a large but not gigantic network. One of the fall-out providers was their podiatrist.

They did not know that their networks changed when they changed product lines. They talked with the billing manager at the podiatrist and they’ll get it sorted out but they were surprised that there was no single BCBS network.

They had been in BCBS since their late 20s. Since then they had large group BCBS, they had small group BCBS, they had BCBS CHIP, their grandson (who is quite adorable as he discovers his toes) was born on BCBS Medicaid, their older grandson is on BCBS CHIP, their son and his wife are on BCBS Exchange. One of their parents was on BCBS Dual Eligible Medicare/Medicaid Special Needs Plan (SNP). They thought it was all basically the same with different ID cards and different marketing material. They were extremely sticky to the local BCBS.

From a business point of view the stickiness was a significant objective of BCBS to offer a full suite of products for all lines of business. The data geeks at BCBS have thirty five years worth of claims data, thirty five years of phone call data, thirty five years of prescription data, thirty five years of text data. The data geeks are fairly confident that if Mr. or Mrs. H. go in for cost-efficient preventative care, the insurance company is likely to see profitability gains through claims avoided six months, twelve months and thirty six months down the road.

That is the upside of being a comprehensive carrier participating in all lines of business with a diverse array of products. People may bounce around within the company, but their data stays within the boundaries of the firm. And from there, the challenge is managing the data to maximize health while minimizing claims expense.

The downside of course to running a diverse set of businesses is that each segment has its own quirks and developing the expertise to be a great Medicaid plan will often conflict with the the imperatives of being an extremely attractive large group employer sponsored carrier. The work around is kludges such as seventeen distinct networks with marketing derived identification that really does not say much about who is in and who is out.

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Deep, Cleansing Breaths

What’s on the agenda for the new day?

Early Morning Schadenfreude Open Thread: Random Observations from the First 2016 Presidential Debate

When you’ve lost Megan McArgleBargle…

Smiling, serene, egged on by each groan and grunt and interruption she goaded from her rival, Clinton provoked Trump again and again—over his refusal to release his tax returns, his years-long “racist lie” about President Barack Obama’s birthplace, his foreign-policy views, and his treatment of women. Meanwhile, Trump drew some blood on the issue of trade, specifically calling out crucial battleground states in the process, but found little on Clinton’s most vulnerable fronts: e-mail, family foundation and policy crises of her tenure as secretary of state…

Trump started the debate relatively subdued, but grew increasingly testy as the night went on—and as Clinton’s jabs kept coming. He used negative emotion words like “terrible,” “stupid,” and “disaster” about 50 percent more often at the end of the debate than the beginning, according to a Bloomberg Politics analysis with Quantified Communications

A CNN snap poll found that 62 percent of voters who watched said Clinton won the debate compared to 27 percent for Trump.

His son Donald Trump, Jr. defended his father after the debate: “There’s a time for temperament, and there’s a time where you actually have to defend yourself,” he said…

Thing is, though — for all the well-deserved mockery, Trump said a bunch of stuff that in any other election cycle would have even the Media Village Idiots perturbed. He once again advocated “taking the oil” from Iraq (which would be a war crime, if it were physically possible); he said “we” should be demanding protection money from NATO; he thought “China should just go into North Korea” (because a manly commander like Douglas MacArthur would’ve done just that); he derided the Fifth Amendment; he said that stop & frisk was “extremely effective in reducing crime” (it wasn’t) until “a very anti-police judge” ruled against it, and repeatedly contradicted the moderator who pointed out that it had been found unconstitutional…
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More Afterglow

Another recap of last night’s debate:


Breaking: Shimon Peres Has Died at Age 93


(Shimon Peres)

The BBC is reporting that Shimon Peres has died (h/t LAO). Here’s the BBC’s obituary for him:

He held almost every public office, including those of prime minister and president, although he never led a party to an election victory.

Born Szymon Perski in Wiszniew, Poland (now Visnieva, Belarus), on 2 August 1923, Shimon Peres was the son of a lumber merchant.

His parents were not Orthodox Jews but the young Shimon was taught the Talmud (compendium of Jewish law and commentaries) by his grandfather and became a strong adherent of the faith.

In 1934 the family moved to the British Mandate of Palestine (Peres’ father had emigrated two years earlier) and settled in Tel Aviv.

After attending agricultural school Peres worked on a kibbutz (agricultural commune) and became involved in politics at the age of 18 when he was elected secretary of a Labour Zionist movement, Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed.

In 1947 Israel’s founding Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, put him in charge of personnel and arms purchases for the Haganah, the predecessor of the Israel Defense Forces.

He secured a deal with France to supply the new state with Mirage jet fighters and also set up Israel’s secret nuclear facility at Dimona.

Peres was elected to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in 1959, standing for the Mapai party, the forerunner of the modern Labour movement in Israel, and was appointed deputy defence minister.

In 1965 he resigned after being implicated in a reopened inquiry into Operation Susannah, an Israeli plan to bomb British and US targets in Egypt in 1954 to try to influence Britain not to withdraw its troops from the Sinai.

A review of the original inquiry into the operation found inconsistencies in the testimony, and Peres, together with Ben Gurion, left Mapai to form a new party.

When Golda Meir resigned as prime minister in 1974 after the Yom Kippur war, Peres unsuccessfully fought Yitzhak Rabin for the vacant post.

Secret negotiations

Rabin stood down as the Alignment party leader in 1977 after a currency scandal involving his wife but a quirk in the Israeli constitution meant he could not resign as prime minister.

Peres became party leader and unofficial prime minster before leading the coalition into a defeat by the Likud party under Menachem Begin.

He suffered five further election defeats, all of which resulted in him being given ministerial positions as part of a coalition government.

In 1992 Peres failed to win the leadership of the Israeli Labour Party after being defeated in the preliminary stages of the contest by Rabin.

As Rabin’s foreign minister, Peres began secret negotiations with Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which led to the historic Oslo peace accords of 1993.

For the first time the Palestinian leadership officially acknowledged Israel’s right to exist.

A year later Peres became a joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize along with Rabin and Arafat.

Once an advocate of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, Peres became a leading political dove, often speaking of the need for compromise over territorial demands in Palestinian areas .

“The Palestinians are our closest neighbours,” he once said. “I believe they may become our closest friends.”

Peres became prime minister in 1995 after Rabin’s assassination but held office for less than a year before being defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud.


In 2000 he failed in his effort to secure the ceremonial post of president, losing to the relatively obscure Moshe Katsav.

When his successor as Labour leader, Ehud Barak, was defeated by Ariel Sharon in the 2002 elections, Peres led Labour into a coalition with Likud and won the post of foreign minister.

He was able to extend a “safety net” in parliament to Sharon, enabling the latter to pursue a plan to disengage from Gaza and parts of the West Bank in the face of opposition from his own Likud party.

In 2005 Peres announced his resignation from Labour and his support for Sharon, who had formed a new party called Kadima.

When Sharon suffered a major stroke there was speculation that Peres might have become leader of Kadima but he was blocked by former Likud members who were the majority in the party.

In June 2007 he was elected president of Israel, resigning form the Knesset where he had been the longest-serving member of parliament in the country’s history.

His served seven years as president, before stepping down in 2014, the world’s oldest head of state.