Showing posts with label Money. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Money. Show all posts

World Retaliatory Tariffs Against US and the Resulting Deflation

Due to the retaliatory world tariffs against US products, world demand for US products will drop, thus domestic supply will increase. What does this mean for the US consumer regarding those products?


It is a basic law of supply and demand: when demand drops and supplies remain constant or increase, prices drop. Hundreds of products will be affected directly. Thousands of products will be affected indirectly. Domestic prices will gradually fall for those products as the effects of the tariffs moves through the supply pipeline.

This page was originally published June 2018. At this point, the above must be considered as a prediction; though it can be considered as a pretty reliable prediction. After all, the basic laws of supply and demand have been a proven fact since the beginning of capitalism. This page will be updated as things progress. And needless to say and in order to benefit, one will need to Buy American. This shouldn't be too hard, since those products will be the ones with the lowest prices.

For reference: Bureau of Labor Consumer Price Index Page.

Find Truly Free Checking and Savings Accounts - Think Credit Unions

Credit unions and certain other financial institutions are ten times better than national banks and credit card companies. Pay fewer, lesser, and no fees.


People often ask,
  • What is the best bank in a given location?
  • What is the best bank for a specific kind of customer?
Rephrasing the question to "What is the best financial institution?" is the way to find what's best.

It is positively amazing how many people put up with all the fees many banks and other financial institutions attach to their savings, checking, and credit card accounts. Those banks and financial institutions will keep on doing this as long as the consumer keeps letting them get away with it. There is no excuse for the consumer to tolerate these kinds of bank fees when there are so many better alternatives available.

Avoid National Banks and National Credit Card Companies

National and local credit unions and local banks are the way to go.

The average consumer should never do business with a national bank or national credit card company. Check out your locally owned banks; even better, check out your local or national credit unions. National debit card companies might be OK: read the fine print.


Customers who have followed the above principles:

  • Have not paid any monthly account fees in decades.
  • Have not paid any check fees in decades.
  • Have not paid any credit or debit card transaction fees in decades.
  • Have always been paid higher interest on their savings.
  • Have always paid lower interest on their loans.
  • Have always experienced the bliss of fewer and lesser fees all-around.

What Exactly Is a Credit Union?

A credit union in the United States is technically a co-op arrangement among members. Those members with money make deposits. Those members who need money take out loans.

The spread between the interest paid to members with savings and the interest collected from members with loans is supposed to be no larger than what will cover the co-op’s expenses.

The covered expenses also enable both savers and borrowers to have free checking accounts, no-annual-fee debit and credit cards, and many other free or lesser fee services. Many countries have these same co-op type institutions; they are just known by different names.

About Credit Union Membership

With banks, you are a customer. With credit unions, you are a member.

It used to be difficult to become a member of a credit union. The usual requirement being you were working for a specific employer. In fact, many times the credit union was actually named after the employer. Many of these credit unions are still in existence today.

Membership requirements these days are much more open. Every credit union has unique criteria.

 Credit unions did not come up with the idea of membership requirements. Federal regulations require members of credit unions to have something in common, usually being the mutual employer scenario.

However, other criteria can now be used; just being a member of a certain profession is a good example.

What opened the floodgates is the now current use of geographical location as to what determines eligibility. In other words, are you and the credit union in the same county? If so, congratulations; you are a member. The credit union website will clearly spell out the eligibility requirements to become a member.

f you do not qualify, it is neither their fault nor yours; federal regulations are federal regulations. The good news is your chances of success are fairly high. Worst case scenario is you merely proceed to your local bank instead.

Internet-based financial institutions are also worth checking out, but be very careful and check their reputations and fee schedules with a fine-toothed comb.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.


About Your Local Banks and Credit Unions: The Good

Here is the normal fee structure at your good, locally owned banks and credit unions:

  • There are no membership fees. 
  • There are no annual or monthly credit card fees.
  • There are no annual or monthly debit card fees.
  • Savings accounts have no monthly or other fees. A minimum balance requirement of a couple hundred bucks or less is acceptable.
  • Checking accounts have no monthly fees and no minimum balance requirements. The requirement you have a savings or similar account with a reasonable minimum balance to qualify for the free checking account is an acceptable option. Using the direct deposit option to qualify for a free checking account is not always a good idea; getting slammed with a bunch of fees when you lose your job is not the way to go. On the other hand, qualifying based on direct deposit of your Social Security retirement check certainly isn't much of a risk.
  • No debit card point-of-sale fees of any kind.
  • No credit card point-of-sale fees of any kind.
  • Very minimal or no ATM fees on debit card transactions.
  • All other fees are less than what you are paying at your current financial institution.

About Your Local Banks: The Bad

It should be noted some local banks can be even more obnoxious than your national banks. Local banks are just like any other locally owned business. Employee attitude will directly reflect the personality and attitude of the owner(s) of the bank.

Fortunately, the bank’s fee structure is very often a clear indication of the bank’s attitude towards the general public. Ridiculous and excessive fees? Go elsewhere.

About Your Local Credit Unions: The Ugly

Credit unions are well-known for being the better deal. As such, there are bankers-to-be who come out of the woodwork to take advantage of the better reputation credit unions have.

The methodology to do this is not difficult. The banker-to-be simply opens his business via and under the credit union regulations and rules. Then, as far as interest rates and fee structuring goes, they run it like a bank. There is a credit union in San Francisco that is positively famous for this. So just because an institution calls itself a credit union doesn't mean you are home free. Do check out their fee schedule and interest rates relative to other institutions.

The Search

Needless to say, your location will vary.


How to Find Your Local Banks and Credit Unions

Finding them is not hard to do. The usual Yellow Pages perusal and/or an internet search will turn them right up. And it should be noted there are excellent national credit unions as well.

As to finding the good ones, you will need to check their website. Find their fee schedule and you will usually know what you need to know. If they do not have a fee schedule online, then that is a possible red flag. If your choices are limited, then you may have to make a personal visit to the financial institution and check out their brochures in the lobby.

Those financial institutions having the "glass cage" setup you must navigate to enter and exit the premises should be avoided like the plague. For some reason, there seems to be a strong correlation between "glass cage" usage and the treatment of customers as peasants in general.

You can also find a local credit union, plus all sorts of other worthy credit union information, at the federally run Nation Credit Union Administration (NCUA) website.

You can find all sorts of interesting information about your local banks at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) website. They even maintain a public list of failed banks.

Next is the opening of an account. A driver’s license, Social Security card, and a pleasant attitude are all that should be required. If the bank or credit union employee, or the procedures in general, are unusually obstructive; then forget it and move on. If they require you have an account with them for at least six months before allowing you to apply for a debit card, then you definitely want nothing to do with them.


Worthy Internet Institutions

There are worthy internet-based institutions out there. Just thoroughly check their fee schedule; particularly as relates to their savings and checking accounts, and their credit and debit cards. Also, plug their name and the word "scam" into your search engine and see what pops up. If there are pages of complaints, it would probably be wise to avoid that particular institution.


Only consider doing business with credit unions authorized to display this logo:

NCUA (has all sorts of worthy information)


Only consider doing business with local banks and internet-based financial institutions authorized to display this logo (or other equivalent government signage)


Comments - If you have an opinion regarding a particular financial institution, feel free to post it here.

How to Get a Car Loan

How to get the best rate for an auto loan, plus a couple important tips and tricks for buying a new or used car.

And as for getting a car loan when you have bad credit, here is probably the most important tip of all...
  • The larger the down payment you are willing to make, the more inclined the bank or other financial institution will be to give you the loan.


Both new and used car sales continue to fluctuate, and so the demand for car loans does the same. As demand fluctuates, so do the shenanigans and other nonsense by dealership finance departments and other lenders. This page will provide you with what you need to know about getting the best possible rate on your auto loan. Failing that, it will at least keep you from getting the worst.

Auto Loan Guide - Things to Do and Not Do


Clean Up Those Credit Reports

First thing you need to do is get copies of your credit reports. You are entitled to one free report a year from each of the three major reporting agencies. The most legitimate website to get them from is www.annualcreditreport.com. They will make you work for it by subjecting you to a bunch of sales pitches for their non-free products, but this is the site most consumer groups and others recommend.

Review your reports. If you find any errors negatively impacting your credit score, you will have to jump through whatever hoops are necessary to get them fixed. Most loan officers don't even seriously bother to look at the reports; they just look at the credit score. Have the wrong credit score and you may not even be able to get an auto loan. Have an unfairly low credit score, and you will be paying hundreds and possibly even thousands more in interest over the course of your car loan, not to mention being subjected to higher monthly payments.

It is imperative your credit score be as high as possible. One doesn't have to be a rocket surgeon to know the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate on your auto loan will be. In fact, reading this Credit Score Guide for Beginners would probably be a good idea.

Avoid Auto Dealer Financing


Epic Fail!
Don't do this!
Car dealerships and used car lots are the absolutely worst place to get an auto loan.

Seriously, you might as well go to one of those loan shark outfits you see at the mini-malls. The auto dealers will use every trick in the book against you. They make as much or more money on the financing as they do on the car sale, itself. More often than not, whatever interest rate is initially promised invariably runs into a "problem"; and they will insist they can only do the financing at the higher interest rate and higher monthly payments. It's even been reported they will sometimes pull this stunt when the car is already sitting in your driveway.

As a side note, by all means ask about their zero financing they constantly advertise. Problem is, somehow nobody every seems to qualify for it... If you do happen to be one of the lucky few, well and good. But don't count on it.

And while we're at it... When you have decided to visit a particular dealership or used car lot, it wouldn't hurt to first check them out at RipOffReport and the BBB.

Best Way to Get a Car Loan Is from Your Current Financial Institution


Do you feel lucky?
With any luck, your financial institution has already been poking you with a stick;
trying to entice you to get an auto loan with them.

Your first resource should be your existing bank or credit union. Presumably you have been with them for awhile and are considered to be a good customer. What you would really like to accomplish is to get a pre-approved auto loan from them; succeed and your problem is solved.

Do not mention your pre-approved loan to the car dealer prior to closing the deal on your car purchase price. Otherwise they will raise the car price to offset the money they are not going to make from the financing.

If your financial institution seems somewhat reluctant about the pre-approval idea, don't push it. Stay lovable and don't burn that bridge just yet. Ask about and pave the way to apply for an auto loan with them after you have negotiated the price for the car.

Getting a Car Loan from Other Than Your Existing Financial Institution


The Shopping Around Process

Did your existing financial institution fail to come through? Fine; once you've got the car situation taken care of, your next project will be to find a better place to do your banking business.

Give www.bankrate.com your regards. Select "auto" from the menu at the top of the screen. Use their search feature to see what the best auto loan rates and conditions are, etc. Don't actually make an application just yet.

Check out your local banks and credit unions. Visit their websites. See what their rates, fees, and conditions are. Again, don't actually apply.

There are also some worthy exclusively-internet entities out there who do car loans. Just be sure to research them first. You do not want to get tangled up with the wrong one.

Network! By all means ask friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. for recommendations as to where to get the best car loan. Applying for an auto loan at a place where you can use an existing good customer as a reference certainly won't hurt.

Also be attuned to what people say about auto loan places to avoid.

How to Apply for the Car Loan
This is all a pain in the neck.
But even a 1% loan rate savings can add up to a significant amount of money over time.

The Application Applying Process

Well, you've cleaned up your credit report and have done your research. Time to apply for the loan.

Pick and rank your best five candidates from your research. Work your way down the list. Make it known you are shopping for the best rate; this accomplishes three purposes:
  • You are implying you have no concerns about being accepted for the loan, your only concerns are as to terms. Appearing confident favorably affects perception.
  • You will not appear desperate or sneaky when it is noted you are making multiply inquiries.
  • Induces competition and a sense of urgency as to interest rate offered and quickness of response.
In some cases you will have the option to apply in person or via their website. Put some thought into what would work best for you in that particular situation.

Do make all your applications within a 30-day time frame. Multiple loan application inquires will reduce your credit score. But if you make all your duplicate applications within a 30-day period, it is supposed to be categorized as only one inquiry by the credit reporting agencies.

Summary

The above information should work equally well as to getting the best motorcycle, truck, boat, or even airplane loan rates. However, if the boat or airplane is over a 100K, then you can probably afford to get a financial adviser involved. Preferably one with lending institution connections.

Yes, getting the best auto, truck, or SUV loan rates can be a lot of work and a pain in general. The more effort you put in to it, the more money you can save. One thing you can do is to make the project an iterative process, i.e., don't try to do it all at once. Just do one or two aspects a day. It will be done before you know it.

Just a Couple Car Buying Quick Tips
Thrown in for Good Measure


New Car Buying Tip

There are reports saying buyers can get a better price through the website than through going to the car lot. There may even be a choice of websites, i.e., manufacturer website vs. dealership website.

Every manufacturer does things their own way. As an example, the manufacturer website may simply refer you to the appropriate dealership website. Or not. Things are always changing.

It should also be noted more and more dealerships are directly owned by the manufacturer.

Used Car Buying Tip

When a dealership takes a car in trade-in, generally one of two things will happen to it.
  • If the dealership thinks it is a good car which will outlast their warranty program, they will give it a tune-up, detail it, and put it in their used car section.
  • If they don't think it's such a good car, they'll sell it off at a wholesalers' auction and it ends up in some used car lot.

What is the significance of this to the used car buyer?
  • The better cared for, more reliable cars are to be found in dealership used car sections.
  • The more tired, riskier cars are generally at places exclusively selling used cars.

How to Stop Being Overcharged on Sales Tax

Have you been overcharged on sales tax? Here is a way on how to mentally calculate sales taxes on the spot and stop being cheated, catch errors, and prevent fraud attempts.


Business or Store Overcharging on Sales Tax?

When it comes to sales taxes, fraud is not that rare of an occurrence. Many times, smaller stores do deliberately overcharge sales tax. In fact, I’ve seen news stories that even the larger, national chain stores have been caught overcharging sales taxes. And employees in all stores have also been known to make price and thus sales tax mistakes as well.

Mentally calculating sales tax to prevent being overcharged is easy. It all has to do with rounding, no degree in rocket surgery required. You are simply doing a quick approximation to prevent yourself from being a victim of sales tax fraud or simply to prevent being mistakenly overcharged.

[Be forewarned, this page is US-centric. Canada and most European countries have sales or a value added tax (VAT) far exceeding 10%. However, if the VAT tax is close to another round number, one can still make this method work.]

Here are the four main premises of this page:
  • Most sales taxes never exceed 10 percent, but most sales taxes are reasonably close to 10 percent.
  • Most thieves are greedy and will thus exceed the 10 percent amount.
  • Even my dog can mentally calculate 10% of something.
  • Even my dog can mentally add 10% of something to something.

You do not need any of these...

How to Mentally Calculate Sales Tax – Some Examples

The best way for this tutorial to demonstrate mentally calculating sales taxes is by giving lots of examples. In reality, you already know how to do this. You just don't know you know yet. So let's begin. You walk up to the counter and engage in a purchase which sells for...

$49.99
  1. You round the price to $50.
  2. You calculate the 10% as $5.
  3. You add the $50 plus $5 to get $55.
  4. If the counter person wants more than $55, welcome to the world of sales tax fraud and overcharges.

Other Examples...


$29.99
  1. You round it to $30.
  2. 10% is $3.
  3. Total is $33.
  4. If the final price is over $33, welcome to the world of sales tax fraud and overcharges. 
$5.99
  1. Round to $6. 
  2. 10% is $.60. 
  3. Total is $6.60. 
  4. Anything over $6.60, welcome to the world of sales tax fraud and overcharges. 
$79.98
  1. $80.
  2. $8. 
  3. $88. 
  4. Over $88, cheated.
It should be noted that honest mistakes do happen. You will find out soon enough if the overcharge was deliberate or accidental.

Is It Sales Tax Fraud?


What to Do When the Person at the Counter is Overcharging You on the Sales Tax

This depends on your mood, time constraints, the amount of money involved, the store and neighborhood, etc. Below are some typical scenarios and what one can do in each situation; followed by what you can also do after the fact.

You Don't Care About the Amount Involved

  1. Say nothing.
  2. Pay it. 
  3. Say nothing. Or say the routine "Thanks."
  4. [Optional] Locate and take one of the business cards offered on the counter.
  5. Leave. 
  6. Once outside, note the date and time.
  7. Never go back.
  8. Maybe tell everyone you know.

You Do Care About the Amount Involved (Option One)

  1. Don't pay it.
  2. Say nothing.
  3. [Optional] Locate and take one of the business cards offered on the counter.
  4. Leave. Be advised, however, the counterperson (probably the owner) will immediately know that you know he was trying to cheat you. And you took one of his cards... And sales tax fraud is a very serious offense...
  5. Once outside, note the date and time.
  6. Never go back.
  7. Maybe tell everyone you know.

You Do Care About the Amount Involved (Option Two)

  • Politely point out the total is incorrect and explain why you think so.

  • If the counterperson reviews and corrects the error...
  1. Pay it.
  2. Call it a day.
  3. Maybe or maybe not give the place another chance in the future.

  • If the counterperson denies, disputes, or otherwise argues with your statement...
  1. [Optional] Locate and take one of the business cards offered on the counter.
  2. Leave.
  3. Once outside, note the date and time.
  4. Never go back.
  5. Tell everyone you know.

Reward for Reporting Sales Tax Fraud?


How to Report Stores and Other Businesses Who Overcharge Sales Taxes

Not only are you doing a good deed for society, you might even make some money in the process.
  1. Find your state's website dealing with all things sales tax.
  2. Find where to report what you experienced. As an example, in California the California State Board of Equalization would be where to go. California does not pay a reward the last time I checked. However, reporting the fraud is still a good idea; wouldn't you like the thief (employee or owner) removed, so you can have an honest, local place to shop? Reports can be made anonymously and will still be investigated.
  3. For other states, determine if you might get a reward. Tell them your experience in detail, including date and time. Give them all the information on the business card. If you don't have the store's business card, that is ok; just be sure the store name and address you are reporting is correct. And don't worry; they're not going to just take your word for it. They will probably send the equivalent of a few "mystery shoppers" to the store to confirm. When they have absolutely verified and proven it is not an isolated incident; only then will the hammer fall on the deserving thief.
More than likely the store location is leased. With any luck, the thieving employee or owner will soon be gone; hopefully replaced with a new, honest employee or business.

Help with Medical Bills Federal and State Websites

These websites will actually help you when a medical entity victimizes you with inflated or outright fraudulent medical bills and/or denied insurance claims.

This includes hospitals, general doctors, specialists, X-ray places, CT scan or PET scan centers, blood test places, and pretty much any other medical facility or entity that engages in illegal or unethical conduct. Emphasis is on illegal, unethical contracts and on illegal, unethical billing practices. Also includes resources regarding insurance company misconduct or for when a Medicare, Medicaid, or Medi-Cal case worker makes a mistake or acts in bad faith. Sooner or later, you will need the information on this page.

Medical Federal and California (and other) State Government Websites That Will Help You When an Insurance Company or Service Provider Victimizes You – Also Some Worthwhile Additional Information


Patients Rights Help and Support Resource List

A list of resources regarding the rights patients are legally supposed to have. Many provide complaint forms and will actually help you. All listed websites are government or other well-known, reputable resources. All links go directly to the website's patients rights page and/or patients help page.
  • MedlinePlus, from the U.S. Library of National Medicine.
  • HealthCare.gov, your rights under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Medicare.gov, your Medicare rights.
  • The Medicare Beneficiary Ombudsman. , a resource for filing complaints, grievances, appeals, etc.; in other words, a place to rat out medical service providers. The page also promises to provide information, help, assistance, and other services. The page is apparently also the starting point for when you need to deal with Medicare's own shenanigans.
  • CMS.gov, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The particular link I provided has to do with Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight. The page may not especially look it, but these guys are your friend. Sometimes, out of the blue and without any action on your part, they will send you notices a particular medical bill from a medical service provider or insurance entity is not valid and that you don't have to pay it. This website is definitely worth prowling around when you have the time.
  • California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the go-to page for filing medical complaints in California.
  • Office of the Patient Advocate (OPA), another go-to page for filing medical complaints in California.
  • CDSS is another California site that my be able to help you, especially as applies to local office Medi-Cal screw-ups.
  • Google. For folks not in California, simply do a search for:
    "YourStateNameHere patients rights site:.gov" (without the quotes and be sure to include the exact "site:.gov" syntax).
If a link suddenly stops working, it means the website moved that particular page. Let me know in the comments section and I'll find and post the new location.

Some Tips for When Dealing with the Medical Bureaucracy

  • The Medicare 1-800-633-4227 number is open 24/7. They have always been friendly, professional, and helpful.
  • Referring doctors make paperwork mistakes all the time. Whenever possible make sure the medical treatment specifications match what the Medicare white book says. This is mostly applicable to preventive services. Not kidding here, make sure the doctor's instructions exactly match what the white book specifies. I've personally saved myself one financial disaster already by doing this.
  • Never walk into a medical service provider's diagnostic center without the proper Medicare COPD 5-digit code included on the referral paperwork. 
  • Referring doctors make paperwork mistakes all the time (did I mention that already?). Always call the Medicare number first and verify the accuracy of the Medicare code on the paperwork before going to the specialist's or medical service provider's office. Confirm with Medicare that the Medicare code number is valid for your circumstances and procedure(s) and that Medicare will approve and pay for the procedure.
  • When referred to a specialist, sometimes a COPD code isn't provided; the specialist adds the code after the fact. Your only defense against this is having diagnostic information showing the necessity of the visit to the specialist, e.g., CAT scan shows potential malignancies in lungs, thus being referred to a pulmonologist makes medical sense. If the specialists uses the wrong code(s) after the fact and the claim is denied, don't just give up. Work with Medicare and the specialist to get the mistake straightened out and resubmit the claim.
  • The referring doctor does not not always know if the referred specialist or medical service provider takes Medicare, Medicaid, Medi-Cal, etc. When you walk into that referred specialist's office or medical service center for the first time and have identified yourself, always ask first:
  1. Does Medicare accept you and do you accept Medicare as full payment, secondary insurance covering remaining balance?
  2. Does Medicaid//Medi-Cal/Etc. accept you and do you accept Medicaid, Medi-Cal, etc. or whatever other supporting insurance applicable in your situation as full payment?
If any part of their answer is no, leave immediately. As a Medicare beneficiary, you have the right to go to any Medicare specialist or service provider center you wish. Tell your primary, referring doctor what happened and they'll take care of it.

An important note. If a medical entity financially victimizes you or is trying to victimize you happens to be a referral from your doctor, first check with Medicare via their website and/or phone calls and find out exactly what is going on. If that doesn't clarify or fix the situation, then tell your doctor's office all about it. They might be able to fix the problem with just one phone call to the offending medical entity; not so surprisingly, your doctor's office will often be quite successful at this.

A personal note. That medical contract you are always forced to sign is basically a blank check allowing the medical entity to do whatever they want. You've given them the right to do anything and everything their hearts desire and then to bill you for whatever insurance doesn't cover. For that reason, I always print directly above my signature the following in caps:

"ONLY PROVIDE INSURANCE COVERED SERVICES ONLY"

If the medical service provider then refuses you as a patient, immediately inform your primary physician that referred you. If that doesn't solve the problem, i.e., your doctor being able to find a different service provider in the area; I'd personally let Medicare, Medicaid/Medi-Cal, and any other involved insurance/government entity know all about it. I would think they would all want to know about a medical service provider that turns away patients simply because that patient only wants those services that are covered by insurance. Who knows? They might even be able to help you.

An update (Medical Hack(?)). Someone sent me this. I do not know if it is true or not. It sure would be interesting to find out:


I'm continuing to look for other government medical websites that help patients when it comes to money issues. If you happen to know of one, please mention it in comments. I'll be happy to include it on the list. Federal sites are preferred, but sites specific to your state are also welcome.

Body Donation Process and Free Cremation

Here is what happens when you donate a body to medicine, science, industry, research.
Rule Number One for Caregiver: Have Choices Made and Everything Done Before Occurrence.
This page is not for everyone. It serves up the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And it is not gentle about it. Here is what happens and how to donate a body to get a free cremation.


How to Get a Free Cremation by Making a Whole Body Donation

There is a fairly new industry now in existence. It is the business of whole body donations. This is an information article for anyone who is considering making a whole body donation of either themselves or of a loved one. It is the industry standard a whole body donation entitles the donor to free cremation, free transportation, and generally free everything else relating to the cremation.

Overview of the Body Donation Industry

It is illegal for you to sell your body or that of a loved one. However, if you make a whole body donation; the company will pay all transportation costs, the cremation fee, the cost of the urn, and all other incidental costs. This is the industry standard, but each company may be different; so it is imperative to read the contract to be sure.

The company will work with one or more local funeral homes. The funeral home will pick up and transport the body. The company will make all the arrangements. Once the body is at the funeral home, the company will make a final determination as to whether to accept it. If they decide to accept it, the body will then be transported to the company's facilities; often this will be in another state. After one to two months, the remains will be cremated and per your instructions, returned to you or scattered at sea.

If the company rejects the body at time of death, the body stays at whatever funeral home the company happened to have selected. You are then liable for whatever the funeral home wishes to charge you for the transportation costs, cremation costs, etc. This seldom happens; each whole-body-donation company has their own rules; so be sure to read the contract.

Not Just Organ Donation: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The company will inform you the donation of your body or that of a loved one will contribute to the causes of science, education and research. In actuality this means the body or its various parts can and will be used for practically anything. You are not allowed to restrict how the body of you or your loved one may be used.

Once your body or the body of your loved one is at the company's main facility, the sales frenzy begins. Although it is illegal to sell a body or any of its parts, the whole-body-donation companies have found a way around this. As an example, suppose the company gets an order from a customer for a liver; the company will donate the liver, but will charge fees for everything related to it; such as extraction, preparation, and transportation.

First and foremost is the use of dead body parts to cure and heal the living. This is not the usual harvesting of organs immediately after death. Cadaver materials such as skin and bones can be processed into products and materials which are sold to hospitals to treat patients.

The next best scenario is when the cadaver's organs and tissues are harvested and sent to various institutions for medical research. This is the image most of us picture and is indeed many times the case.

However, the company has many different customers and many different types of sales orders.
  • Medical teaching facilities, especially colleges and universities, are steady customers of whole-body-donation companies. Your body or that of your loved one may very well end up at one of these institutions. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Contributing to the education of future doctors and researchers is always a worthy cause. It is possible, however, you or your loved one may end up as the guest of honor at a frat party. Another less pleasant scenario is when the body is chosen as a semester-long project. This is where the body lays on a table for a few months and is gradually cut and picked apart piece by piece; usually rock music will be playing in the background as the students crack jokes.
  • The United States Military is an avid customer of whole-body-donation companies. The military likes to use the bodies for researching and testing their new protective gear. You or your loved one may also be used to test the destructive attributes of new ammunition or explosives. No doubt other government agencies are also customers. One can only speculate as to which agencies and what the bodies or their various parts are used for.
  • Many non-medical biotechnology and other companies are also regular customers of the whole-body-donation industry.
  • Believe it or not, most of the above scenarios do not cause people to reject the idea of whole body donation. However this last scenario does seem to be a deal-breaker for many people. It has to do with the following sentence you will find in the Donor Consent Form Contract: “I am consenting the body to potential segmentation and disarticulation”. In other words, the company rips the body apart; piece by piece and day after day. Here is a typical scenario: Minnesota orders an arm; it is removed and sent. Next day Nevada orders a leg; it is done. Sooner or later the inevitable order for a head floats in; off it goes. Soon all that remains is the torso (probably minus the organs). This is not the image of a loved one many people want to carry around for the rest of their lives.

Whole Body Donations and Free Cremations

The Hopeful Future

The Future Is Now...?

The purchasing company can do anything they want with the body, but as the industry matures it is hoped someday you will have the right to specify the fate of yourself or your loved one. Hopefully, the time could be soon. In fact, since the industry has been around for awhile; it could literally happen any day now. Be sure to ask what options are available and if there are any restrictions you can impose. Do not take anyone's word for anything. Ask for the contract. Inform the salesperson you will read it and get back to them. If they try to make excuses or otherwise object, then probably do not consider that company as one of your possible choices.

Rule Number One for Caregiver: Have Choices Made and Everything Done Before Occurrence.*

*This is the voice of experience talking. Then when the time comes and depending on circumstances, you will then only be faced with having to make that phone call; everything else will then be automatically taken care of.

And as a hospice worker told me the following day: when your body wants to cry, let it. And she was not just talking about that day, but future days and weeks as well. When your body wants to cry, let it. Don't fight it, just let it. And do not care if other people happen to be around at the time. The less you fight it, the sooner you will heal.

How to Really Calculate Miles per Gallon and Cost per Mile Using Formula Template

For folks who want accurate miles-per-gallon and cost-per-mile answers.

For quick, easy answers; simply use the MPG and CPM formula templates and you're done.

Not pretty.

This page will serve you well if your gas gauge is broken, inaccurate, or is otherwise giving you problems. Or if you just want to know how well your car is doing. Can also be used for possibly figuring out ways to improve your mileage.

Needless to say, one needs to know the miles driven, how much gas was used, and the price of the gas before the templates will be of any use to you. If you do not already have these numbers, Section I below has everything you need to know on how to get started.

" Ω " Handy Google calculator. Opens in a separate tab or window.
  • Both " / " and " ÷ " means divide.
  • After arriving at the calculator and before entering numbers, you will need to click its numbers box first to get its attention.

Distance Traveled Precalculation

______________________  -   ______________________  =  ______________________ 
New Odometer Reading            Previous Odometer Reading                Miles Driven
(When you refill the tank)        (From previous fill-up of tank)

As previously mentioned, if you are just looking for approximate answers, then you can simply use the templates and call it a day. If you are looking for the most accurate results possible, see Section I.

How to Calculate Miles per Gallon Formula Template

___________________  /  ___________________  =  ___________________ 
Miles Driven                        Gallons of Gas Used                Miles per Gallon


Example

  1. You drove 100 miles and used 5 gallons of gas.
  2. Your intuitive answer would be 20 miles-per-gallon. Your intuitive answer would be correct.
  3. 100 miles traveled, divided by 5 gallons of gas used, gives you 20 miles per gallon.
  4. 100/5 = 20 mpg.

How to Calculate Gas Cost per Mile Formula Template

___________________  /  ___________________  =  ___________________ 
Price per Gallon                  Miles per Gallon                          Cost per Mile


Example

  1. You paid $5 for a gallon of gas, and you get 10 miles-per-gallon (mpg).
  2. Your intuitive answer would be $.50 a mile. Your intuitive answer would be correct.
  3. $5 paid, divided by 10 miles traveled per gallon (mpg), gives you $.50 cost per mile.
  4. 5/10 = $.50 cost-per-mile

About Your Miles per Gallon Results...

So what does the miles-per-gallon answer actually tell you? It tells you that...

  • This particular vehicle,
  • being mechanically maintained at a given level of efficiency,
  • using a specific brand and grade of gasoline,
  • being filled at a particular time of day,
  • from a particular gas station and a particular pump at a particular  fill speed,
  • and being driven a certain commute route,
  • by a specific driver...
...gets so many miles per gallon.

If the numbers used to make the calculation were accurate, this can lead to some interesting experimentation. What if...

  • A different gas station or pump was used? Not all stations and pumps are the same.
  • A different pump fill speed was used? 
  • The tank was filled at a different time of day? Temperature affects fluid density, first thing in the morning is best; that is when the gas is coldest and most dense.
  • A different brand and/or grade of gasoline was used? See Section II.
  • A different commute route was tried?
  • Deficiencies were found as to the vehicle's maintenance?
  • The vehicle's ignition timing was experimented with (but staying within smog emission specifications)? See Section II.
  • The driver notices and alters a particular driving habit?
Probably other ideas might also come to mind over time. 

Section I - Using a Reasonably Scientific Method and Mistakes to Avoid

If you are looking to get the most accurate results possible, this procedure will help you do that. If you are just looking for an approximation, then you can skip it all and fill in the templates with your existing numbers.
  1. Pick a week, or other time period, when you will be doing your most typical driving pattern.
  2. Have two pens and paper in the car.
  3. Use the gas station you normally use. Fill the gas tank at your usual time. Note the pump number you are using. Note the pump speed you normally use. Do not top off. While waiting, write down your odometer reading, include tenths. If you have a trip-odometer, reset it to zero. Remember to not be distracted by all this to the point you forget to put back the gas cap.
  4. Commence with your week; the usual work commute, errands, etc. Combining your work commute with errands will increase your gas mileage, but only do so if it is what you intend to usually do. Continue your routine until you have less than a quarter-tank. Don't strive for a gas-gauge reading of empty unless it is what you normally do.
  5. Make sure you still have the pens and paper in your car.
  6. At the same time of day as before, return to your previous gas station.
  7. Attempt to use the same pump number you used before. Set to the same pump speed as before. While waiting: write down your odometer reading; write down your trip-odometer reading; include tenths from both. When the pump-handle clicks: write down how many gallons; and very definitely include tenths. Write down the price you paid per gallon. Save the receipt; if the gas station is at least half-coordinated, some or all of this information will be printed there for you. Does it match what's showing on the pump? Do not top off. If so inclined, reset trip-odometer to zero. And the gas cap thing again...
  8. Proceed with your normal routine. You'll do the calculations with the templates at your leisure.

Section II - List of Notes About Fuel Economy, Improving Gas Mileage and Saving Money

Tune-ups and tire pressure: These are the Big Two as to getting the best mileage. A couple notes...  Over-inflating tires increases gas mileage, but causes an immediate and significant increase in tire wear; so don't do that. Under-inflated tires reduce your mileage; and it doesn't do your sidewalls any good either. As for tune ups, spark plugs are especially important. A fouled or carbon-built-up plug reduces mileage drastically, not to mention it will probably cause you to flunk a smog check. A personal note: Two different mechanics quoted me a price of over $100 to change a set of 6 spark plugs, plus the inflated cost of the plugs. In both cases, I departed the premises immediately. I ended up changing the plugs myself, it's not that hard to learn to do. Buy yourself a Chilton or Haynes manual for your particular make and model of car, they have all sorts of useful information. Some auto parts stores even have tool-loaner programs if you don't want to buy your own.

Looking ahead and coasting up to stop lights: Is a close third.

Speed: Once you are above 40 mph or so; the faster you go, the lower your mileage.

Weight: If you are carrying excess, unnecessary weight in the trunk, it will:
  • Reduce mileage
  • Increase engine wear and tear
  • Wear out your brakes faster
Ethanol: Do you have ethanol-times-of-year versus non-ethanol-times-of-year? It can be interesting to make mileage comparisons between the two. You probably won't be happy with the ethanol results.

Gasoline Grade: Putting premium in a car that takes regular will do absolutely nothing for your mileage. However, if your car is in the midgrade octane category and what with there being some octane rating overlap, it might be worth experimenting with trying both the lower and higher octanes; especially if you are also experimenting with the ignition timing.

Temperature and humidity: Mileage is better during cooler times of the year than during heatwaves. And the higher the humidity, the better the mileage. Yep, one does get better mileage on rainy days.

Air filter: When is the last time you replaced the air filter? A clogged air filter does reduce mileage.

Fuel density and time of day: As mentioned earlier, always fill your tank first thing in the morning. Fluid density is affected by temperature. The colder it is, the more gas you get per gallon.

Logbook: If so inclined, this is as good a time as any to start one, especially if you want to try any of the aforementioned experiments..

A Couple of Relevant Federal Websites

I thought I'd include a couple of useful federal websites for your future reference. Both are worth browsing the next time you have some time to kill.

If only urban freeway traffic looked like this...
From www.epa.gov/air-pollution-transportation. Has all sorts of links regarding vehicles and fuel efficiency and saving gas in general.

For when planning your next road trip...
From www.fueleconomy.gov/trip. This goes directly to their trip calculator page. What makes this calculator unique is you can specify the make and model of car you are using or are curious about. In addition to the total fuel cost calculation, they throw in a map and text directions as well. The rest of the site is also worth browsing.

A Credit Report Score Guide for Beginners – Includes List of Things Affecting Your Score

A Credit Score Guide for Beginners

Basically, it is not a pretty picture. Unfortunately, credit reports and scores don't just affect interest rates on loans and credit lines; not to mention being outright refused for credit altogether.
  • Insurance companies also use your credit score as one of the factors in determining the premium amounts for your life, home, and auto policies.
  • Landlords use your credit report to decide whether to rent to you or not.
  • Cell phone and cable companies use it to decide whether to accept you as a customer or not.
  •  Other utility companies use it to decide if an advance security deposit is required.
  • Many companies (sometimes illegally) will refuse to hire you, if you have a low credit score.
It's as if the whole system was designed to mimic nature's law of the jungle, i.e.; once you are down, it "conspires" to keep you that way or outright "kill" you altogether.

Table of Contents

  1. How Your Credit Score Is Calculated
  2. Things That Affect Your Credit Score and How to Protect and Raise Your Credit Rating
  3. About Credit Score Numbers and What Each Range Means
  4. Consumer Credit Bill of Rights and Other Federal Information Resources

How Your FICO Credit Score Is Calculated

FICO is the most commonly used credit reporting system used by lenders, insurance companies, landlords, employers, utility companies, etc.

Percentages and Components of the FICO  (formerly known as Fair Isaac) Credit Reporting System
  • 35% Payment History
  • 30% Amounts Owed
  • 15% Length of Credit History
  • 10% Types of Credit Used
  • 10% New Credit
These are the components and numbers Fair Isaac have publicly claimed. However, it is reasonable to suspect there are proprietary, additional factors behind the scenes; debt ratios, unused credit, employment history being primary examples.

List of What Affects Your Credit Report and Score and How to Protect and Improve Your Credit Rating

  • Pay your bills on time, this one is an absolute necessity. To do otherwise signifies financial problems or irresponsibility, both of which are major red flags.
  • Keep your debt as low as possible, relative to your credit-lines. Maxed-out credit-lines are death.
  • Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Having an excessively large, unused credit-line available will lower your score. Excessively large credit-lines tend to eventually be used and potential creditors are leery of that.
  • Don't suddenly close most of your credit lines and/or card accounts. This will mess up your debt-to-limit ratio and lower your score significantly.
  • Moderately used, active credit lines and accounts seem to be what lenders like to see.
  • Apply for credit as seldom as possible and avoid department store credit cards.
  • Co-signing loans is a very bad idea,"Top 10 reasons not to co-sign on a loan" from Bankrate.
  • Student loan debt can hurt your credit score.
  • The IRS reports delinquent taxes, unknown if that includes those under dispute.
  • Cities and counties report unpaid parking tickets and unpaid library fines. And it is a pretty good bet that includes any that are disputed.
  • Cities and counties also report what you owe when you are unable to retrieve your car from impound.
  • Reconcile your credit card statements every month. Inaccuracies, invalid charges, overlooked-no-longer-needed monthly charges, and outright ID theft happen much more often than you might think.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year. Fatal inaccuracies occur often in these reports. In fact, credit reporting agencies are famous for it. You are legally entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the credit reporting agencies.
  • Pretty much all of the reputable consumer-related-advice websites recommend annualcreditreport.com as the place to get your free credit reports. The site will subject you to a lot of advertising pitches along the way, but eventually you'll get the free reports unscathed. 
  • Credit card companies and banks generally rob their customers blind when it comes to cash advance fees; so don't do that. There is also the possibility that your willingness to pay those high fees might be interpreted as a sign of desperation by the lending institution.
  • Likewise, avoid those loan places you see in the mini-malls like the plague. Having one of those places showing up on your credit report would be 10 times more destructive than any mentions of department store credit cards could ever be.
  • An Update. Credit bureaus now report to prospective mortgage lenders as to whether an applicant pays their credit card bill(s) in full each month or only makes the minimum payment(s), etc.

About Credit Score Numbers and What Each Range Means

Depending on which credit bureau is dong the rating, credit scores range approximately from 300 to 850.

The credit score sub-ranges listed below are likewise approximations, but they will give you a good idea as to where you stand. There is a small overlap in the ranges. This has to do with the fact that some loan officers will look beyond just the number and actually read the report; but unfortunately, there are many lending institutions who don't.

Some aspects of this segment are of a "humorous" nature, but there is seriousness behind the "humor".

Credit Scores at 300 Something, or in the 400 Range, or at 500

If your credit score is at or below 500, you are basically dead in the water. If you are in this category, then as far as society is concerned, you are not worthy to live. Not only does society classify you as unworthy/poor/destitute; it will do everything in its power to keep you that way.

Want a job? Forget it. Employers don't hire people with credit scores at and under 500. As far as society is concerned, you have no right to be employed. [Update: Some states have changed their laws in order to fight this practice. In California, for example, it is now supposedly illegal for a prospective employer to use your credit score as a factor in their hiring decision.]

Want to rent an apartment? Forget it. Apartments aren't rented to people with credit scores at and under 500. As far as society is concerned, you deserve and should be homeless.

Want to buy a car, get a checking account, or get a debit or credit card? Forget it. Forget it. And forget it.

Do you think there just might be something wrong with this system? Many people will agree with you.

Credit Score Range Between 500 to 600 and up to 620 Inclusive

Attempting any kind of credit related or other business transaction when your credit score is in the 500 to low 600 range is extremely difficult. If you are able to get a credit related account or successfully initiate any other sort of business transaction, you will be subjected to the worst possible interest rates, fees, and security deposit amounts.

Credit Scores Ranging Between 600 to 700 and up to 719 or 720 Inclusive

In this range society doesn't consider you a credit risk, but entities you attempt to do business with will pretend they think you are. Negotiation is possible here. Sometimes, just say no. It might work. It might not. You have the option to walk away and try somewhere else.

Here is the classic story when someone is in the 600 to low 700 credit range and they attempt to buy a car...

You: “I love this car and think you are giving me a good deal. I'll take it.”

The Car Dealer: “With your credit rating, we will have to charge you 50% more than the usual interest rate.”

You: “Why?”

The Car Dealer: “Because we consider you a credit risk.”

You: “So you think I can handle the higher monthly payment, but that I can't handle the lower one?”

The Car Dealer: “Exactly.”

- end of story -

Although told in  a "humorous" light and different words would be used in the actual situation, the description of the results is dead on accurate. And on an even more serious note, one should never get an auto loan from a car dealership or used car lot anyway. If/When you are in the market for your next car, this How to Get a Car Loan article will save you much grief and money.

Credit Scores at and Above 720 - And in The Land of 850

When your credit score is in the 720 to 799 range, better interest rates on loans and credit lines start becoming available to you. Getting a house or car loan at favorable rates is usually a routine matter.

And if your credit score is actually in the 800 range,you are a Living God and can do no wrong. Creditors follow you around, scattering flower petals in front of you wherever you go. Little angels hover around and protect and nurture you. Rainbows are visible at every corner.

A Bookmarks Reference List of Consumers Credit Bill of Rights Resources

Here's a list of resources as to the rights consumers are legally supposed to have when dealing with credit and credit scores. All listed websites are government or other well-known, reputable sources. All links go directly to the website's consumer credit rights page. This list is just starting out and may be added to from time to time.

Medical Service Provider Corruption - Patients Forced to Sign SWAG Medical Contracts Under Duress

[This page was originally entitled "Medical Imaging and Diagnostic Centers Saying Medicare Part B Reneges on Paying for Preventative Services" and was about a local incident. The page has since been expanded to address other local incidents and as they relate to the national issue. Bottom of the page has a list of government bookmarks for helping patients deal with unethical medical conduct. Page may occasionally be updated as more information comes to light.

The problem is the medical service provider is trying to
make the patient responsible for Medicare's conduct.

October 13, 2016 (first local incident)

Per doctor's written instructions, I went to an imaging/diagnostic center (name temporarily redacted) for chest/lung X-rays. I had been to this place before a couple years ago and there hadn't been any problems.

As with most medical service providers, I was first directed to the Hallowed Contract Signing Room. And there is where everything fell apart...

They placed a contract in front of me that basically said (paraphrasing):
  • We will take the X-rays.
  • We will bill Medicare.
  • Medicare will then decide if the X-rays were medically necessary or not.
  • If Medicare unilaterally decides the X-rays were not necessary and refuses to pay, then you must pay instead.
  • If you refuse to sign this contract, we will refuse to do the X-rays your doctor ordered.
In other words, the imaging/diagnostic center is claiming:
  • That Medicare no longer considers a doctor's word or judgement good enough.
  • That Medicare sometimes reneges on payments and that I am supposed to protect the imaging/diagnostic center from this by agreeing to pay them myself in such cases.

I felt sympathy for the woman at the desk, I knew she was just following orders.

So, is this a Medicare issue or is this an imaging/diagnostic centers issue? Or maybe it is only this one service provider that is pulling this stunt and Medicare is being falsely accused? [Incident is sorted out in next section.]

As a side note, I asked for a copy of the contract to show the doctor as to why I didn't get the X-rays and the imaging/diagnostic center flatly refused.

October 27, 2016 (second local incident)

Per doctor's written instructions, I went to a local blood lab (name temporarily redacted) this morning. While in the back room, they came in with a contract saying certain medical codes were missing and I would have to agree to pay for what Medicare wouldn't pay because of the missing codes. I declined, at which point they said they would contact the referring doctor's office and get the codes.

They then came back and said they had got the codes and proceeded to take my blood. I never had to sign anything and all appeared well.

When I got home, it occurred to me to call the doc's office to see if the blood lab really did call them and get the codes.The Doc's Office Said They Never Received Any Such Call. They further said they would look into and deal with it, and that I would not be responsible for any bills.

I'll wait to see how this sorts out before acting further. I never signed or agreed to anything. So if I do receive any sort of bill, I will perceive it as attempted fraud on the part of the blood lab and will indeed name names, unlike my still withholding the name of the imaging/diagnostic center.

When I first reported about this second incident, I received input from others stating such things as...
  • They have been nothing but trouble for people with Medicare or PPO health insurance.
  •  Credit card numbers demanded in advance before agreeing to do blood work.
  • Collection agencies being used on unwarranted/disputed bills.
This incident is considerably worse than the first incident, in fact it makes the first incident pale by comparison. I'm waiting to see how my situation turns out before acting accordingly.

November 15, 2016 update: still no bill received.

Early November, 2016 (third local incident)

Per doc's referral, I went to an eye doctor place (name temporarily redacted) and made an appointment. After making the appointment, I then perused their frames selection. The prices were literally double to triple the prices that can be found elsewhere, presumably the lens prices would be equally exorbitant.

The place was packed with patients/customers, noticing that caused me conflicted emotions...
  • On the one hand, I am pro capitalism. If a business entity discovers an unending supply of customers who voluntarily pay double to triple the going rate for a product or service, then you really can't fault the business entity for taking advantage of that.
  • On the other hand, pretty much all the patients/customers there were extremely old people who just plain no longer apparently had the mental faculties to know any better or the ability to  realize what was going on. I'm not an attorney, but this could easily be perceived as a case for elder abuse. Most insurance does not pay for frames and lenses, only for the exams.
At any rate, I mulled things over and cancelled my appointment. I may or may not work up the energy to look into this particular situation further.

The National Problem

[This page started out being about the actions of a single medical service provider. However it has now become about the national issue of medical service providers denying patients medical care unless the patient agrees  to sign what are known as SWAG CONTRACTS.]

Continuation and Update

I called the doctor's office. Yep, apparently most imaging/diagnostics centers are now pulling this stunt.

A patient being held responsible for a bill, because they falsely claimed they were insured, is indeed as it should be. However, a service provider attempting to force a patient to be held responsible for an insurer's breach of contract, bureaucracy, bad faith conduct, mistakes, or even just a misunderstanding is not.

The contract is between the service provider and the insurer, it is their responsibilities to understand and agree to the terms. Any attempt by a medical service provider to make a patient responsible for an insurer's actions is, to me, an essentially bad faith action on the part of the provider. Basically, the medical service provider is extorting the patient to insure the provider against the actions of the insurer, the threat being the withholding of needed medical care if the patient refuses to do so. In other words, patients are being forced to sign under duress.

Proposed Solution


Is it any wonder most countries think America has the most corrupt Medical Establishment on the planet? Our government keeps trying to fight it. But the greed and corruption is so entrenched, ingrained, embedded, and widespread (there are media reports almost daily on the subject) that nationalization of the medical industry may indeed be the only answer.

There would still be private sector medical professionals, but the government would be the single insurer and the only legally responsible payer. And it would be illegal for any private sector medical entity to try to coerce a patient into signing any sort of contract. Proof and authentication of identity would be all that is required, preauthorization for medical procedures implemented on an as needed basis. Premiums would be based on income.  Service providers (including hospitals) would no longer have to worry about being paid. Patients would no longer have to worry about being thrown into financial hardship or outright bankruptcy.

Meanwhile and for the time being, if a service provider hands you a contract such as the one I described in the above bulleted list.... Inform them that if they are unwilling to trust the insurer, then neither are you. You will no doubt immediately be thrown out, but at least you wont be a patsy.

You might try suggesting the service provider get preauthorization from the insurer. However and for some unknown reason, there are apparently some medical service providers who refuse to make the 3-minute phone call, the initially mentioned imaging and diagnostic center being one such case.

On a personal note, I am aware versions of this situation have been going on for decades. I have always circumvented the problem by simply adding the following sentence directly above my signature in caps:"ONLY PROVIDE INSURANCE COVERED SERVICES ONLY". The service provider then gets everything pre-authorized and there has never been a problem. As to why this particular, aforementioned imaging and diagnostic center is pulling this new stunt is beyond me. I live in a small town, hopefully the situation isn't as bad as the doctor's office has indicated and they can find a more ethical place to refer me.

This Has to Stop

A Bookmarks Reference List of Patients Bill of Rights Resources

I figured while I was at it, I might as well compile a list of resources regarding the rights patients are legally supposed to have. All listed websites are government or other well-known, reputable sources. All links go directly to the website's patients rights and assistance pages. I might add to this list from time to time.

Update:

List moved to Government Help for When Subjected to Medical Misconduct Victimization. Particularly relates to financial and billing misconduct.

Social Security and/or Other Online Federal Government Accounts Again Requiring Mandatory Security Code Verification in Addition to User Name and Password

February 2018 Update

Nothing really new to report. The only thing I can think to mention is that one should sign up with their website, regardless of age. Never hurts to keep an eye on things. Side note: I'm not putting a link here. Never go to an important site via a link from another site; too many security issues involved. Only go to such sites via directly from your browser address bar or from a well-known, reputable search engine; and while you're at it, hover the link to see where it really goes before clicking it.

May 2017 Update

This time they are making an email option available along with the previously aborted text messaging option. This should indeed keep the poor people (of which I am one) from being shut out of their accounts. It is nice to see that Social Security is finally catching up with reality. Here's the informational email they are sending out:

*Start*
Social Security continues to evaluate and improve how we protect what’s important to you. We take this responsibility seriously, and we have a robust cybersecurity program in place to help protect the personal information you entrust to us. Adding additional security measures to safeguard your personal information — but making our services easy to use — is a vital part of keeping you safe and secure.

On June 10, 2017, we will add a second method to check your identification when you sign in to my Social Security. This is in addition to the first layer of security, your username and password. Right now, you don’t have to do anything for this new process. But you may want to sign in to your account to make sure you remember your username and password. Then, when you sign in on or after June 10, you will be able to choose either your cell phone or your email address as your second identification method. Using two ways to identify you when you log on will help better protect your account from unauthorized use and potential identity fraud.

Since my Social Security became available in May 2012, more than 30 million people have created an account. We have always offered a second layer of protection, but only for customers who opted to use it.

Last summer, we added a second way for us to check your identity when you registered or signed in to my Social Security. However, at that time, we only allowed the use of a cell phone as your second identification method. We listened to your concerns, and beginning on June 10, you can choose either your cell phone or your email address as the second way for us to identify you. Since an email address is already required to use my Social Security, everyone can continue to benefit from the features my Social Security provides.

Each time you sign in to your account, you will complete two steps:
  • Step 1: Enter your username and password.
  • Step 2: Enter the security code we send you by text message or email, depending on your choice (your cell phone provider's text message and data rates may apply).
If you do not have a text-enabled cell phone, or you do not wish to provide your cell phone number, you will need to choose your email address as a contact method so we can send you a one-time security code to access your my Social Security account. To ensure you receive the email with the one-time security code timely and it does not go into your spam or junk folder, you can add NO-REPLY@ssa.ov to your contact list. 

We’re committed to using the best technologies and standards available to protect our customers’ data. This new security advancement is just one of the ways we’re ensuring the safety of the resources entrusted to us.

In addition to these security enhancements, we are also upgrading the look and feel of my Social Security, in an effort to create an enhanced customer experience. The my Social Security portal will automatically change its size based on the size of the screen and kind of device you are using – such as a tablet, smart phone, or computer. No matter what type of device you choose, you will have full, easy-to-use access to your personal my Social Security account.

*End*

For Those Who Are Interested, Here's What Happened Before...


2016 UPDATE The text-messaging requirement has been rescinded. Here is Social Security's latest email:

*Start*

On July 30, 2016, we began requiring you to sign into your my Social Security account using a one-time code sent via text message. We implemented this new layer of security, known as “multifactor authentication,” in compliance with a Presidential executive order to improve the security of consumer financial transactions.  SSA implemented the improvements aggressively because we have a fundamental responsibility to protect the public’s personal information.

However, multifactor authentication inconvenienced or restricted access to some of our account holders. We’re listening to your concerns and are responding by temporarily rolling back this mandate.

As before July 30, you can now access your secure account using only your username and password. We highly recommend the extra security text message option, but it is not required. We’re developing an alternative authentication option, besides text messaging, that we’ll begin implementing within the next six months.

We strive to balance security and customer service options, and we want to ensure that our online services are both easy to use and secure. The my Social Security service has always featured a robust verification and authentication process, and it remains safe and secure.

We regret any inconvenience you may have experienced.

There is no requirement that you access your personal my Social Security account as a result of the steps we are taking.  However, when you do access your account, we encourage you to sign up for the extra security text message option.  You can access your account by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

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Here is the original post that started it all:


Poor People Can No Longer Access Their Social Security Or Other Online Federal Government Accounts


I am one of the people who cannot afford the monthly, exorbitant cell phone fees. I just received this email from Social Security. Leastwise I can afford internet access (try landline DSL if possible, can save decent money); but for me and millions of others, I guess internet access to our federal government accounts is no more.

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Starting in August 2016, Social Security is adding a new step to protect your privacy as a my Social Security user.  This new requirement is the result of an executive order for federal agencies to provide more secure authentication for their online services. Any agency that provides online access to a customer’s personal information must use multifactor authentication.

When you sign in at ssa.gov/myaccount with your username and password, we will ask you to add your text-enabled cell phone number.  The purpose of providing your cell phone number is that, each time you log in to your account with your username and password, we will send you a one-time security code you must also enter to log in successfully to your account.

Each time you sign into your account, you will complete two steps:
  • Step 1:  Enter your username and password.
  • Step 2:  Enter the security code we text to your cell phone (cell phone provider's text message and data rates may apply).
The process of using a one-time security code in addition to a username and password is one form of “multifactor authentication,” which means we are using more than one method to make sure you are the actual owner of your account.

If you do not have a text-enabled cell phone or you do not wish to provide your cell phone number, you will not be able to access your my Social Security account.

If you are unable or choose not to use my Social Security, there are other ways you can contact us.  To learn more, please review the Frequently Asked Questions found here.

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And that's the way it is...