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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Health Care Costs: Go Figure

Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court's narrow 5-4 decision upholding most of the President's health insurance law, a telling example of why the American health care system is probably beyond repair appeared in the mailbox. It was not unexpected. A close relative had spent seven days (and nights) at Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, the result of a nasty fall and broken hip. We all knew the bill would be significant. But no one anticipated its magnitude. How does nearly $118,000 sound? And that doesn't include a variety of pending charges that are still to come. Now, in fairness, that mammoth figure was retail. Those with health insurance (like our patient) would pay a lot less. There was a shorthand breakdown in general cost categories but no itemized accounting. There was no detail at all. No doubt, such a complete tally would require any number of pages. So it was impossible to examine the bill with any sort of accuracy at all. There was no way to figure out what was valid and what wasn't. We had to take it all on faith. That seemed OK when the bottom line payout for this comprehensive care was just $200, courtesy of Medicare and a terrific supplemental group insurance policy. So, frankly, there was utterly no incentive at all to double-check the bill, to question it, to pore over it. Why worry? Other than the paltry $200, it was going to be paid, certainly at a healthy negotiated discount. It was another example of the lack of transparency in all of this. The system simply isn't rational. The consumer has no idea what he or she is actually paying for much of the time. It's a formula for economic chaos.        

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dredging Up the Past Isn't Always Productive

We came, we saw, we dithered. At the request of a former San Mateo Times editor, Belmont's Michelle Carter, a small group of ex-Times staffers converged on the San Mateo County History Museum today to try to sort through several boxes of old photographs dating back more than 55 years. For a time, it was thought that the memorabilia had been lost once the daily newspaper had been sold to Dean Singleton and his newspaper group in 1996. But they had been stored away by a private citizen who recently sold the collection to the museum. The bulk of the glossy pictures, mainly those of men, had already been filed away alphabetically, leaving the rest for a careful examination by the volunteers. Unfortunately, by and large, there were few, if any, striking finds in the material. There was only a very slim smattering of stuff with even a hint of  true historic value in the mounds of unlabeled photos. Not that we didn't try to find some gems. But, somehow, shots of the 1964 Republican National Convention at the Cow Palace, unnamed recreation facilities, anonymous bureaucrats, publicity stills, etc. just didn't stimulate the juices too much. It was rather mundane. Nonetheless, the job is not complete. More work lies ahead. It's likely that we'll return to the Redwood City archive room fairly soon. We're hoping for a more productive outcome.     

Thursday, June 21, 2012

San Mateo County Public School Teachers' Salaries

                          2010-11 San Mateo County Public School Teachers' Wages

                     Lowest Offered Salary    Average Salary    Highest Offered Salary

Bayshore Elementary      $41,878      $60,337      $79,944
Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary      $46,668      $70,704      $88,854
Brisbane Elementary      $42,593      $65,467      $78,272

Burlingame Elementary      $40,352      $65,150      $80,948
Cabrillo Unified      $43,294      $64,696      $78,752
Hillsborough City Elementary      $51,590      $87,067      $115,456

Jefferson Elementary      $42,429      $59,416      $74,634
Jefferson Union High      $41,113      $58,421      $72,464
Pacifica Elementary      $34,626      $55,191      $71,146

LaHonda-Pescadero Unified      $36,550      $52,034      $73,200
Las Lomitas Elementary      $61,990      $90,643      $102,727
Menlo Park City Elementary      $51,966      $87,720      $103,060

Millbrae Elementary      $40,971      $65,440      $79,907
Portola Valley Elementary            (not available)
Ravenswood City Elementary      $42,460      $58,472      $79,325

Redwood City Elementary      $43,879      $69,270      $85,395
San Bruno Park Elementary      $39,125      $64,402      $75,155
San Carlos Elementary      $44,463      $65,614      $84,412

San Mateo-Foster City Elementary      $43,458      $65,069      $81,727
San Mateo Union High      $50,664      $84,416      $96,261
Sequoia Union High      $52,826      $81,768      $97,785

South San Francisco Unified      $43,879      $60,976      $86,745
Woodside Elementary      $52,103      $87,080      $106,696

Source: California state Department of Education

Hey, Larry, What About Half Moon Bay?

It came as something of surprise this week when it was announced that Oracle honcho Larry Ellison has purchased almost the entire Hawaiian island of Lanai. The exact price was not provided but it is believed to be in excess of $600 million. We don't begrudge Ellison his billions, not in the least. He has made his money the time-honored capitalist way. He created his own company and you know the rest. Good for him. Still, why Lanai? Think about it. Ellison, a citizen of Silicon Valley, could have kept his cash trove right here at home. He could have made a bid to buy Half Moon Bay, or at least a significant portion of it. The Coastside village is in deep financial trouble. It has been cutting and out-sourcing services for the last several years. Its municipal government is a shell of what it once was. It needs an infusion of big bucks. At one time, Ellison wanted to spend lavishly to acquire the Golden State Warriors of the NBA. The effort failed. Instead, it's Lanai. Too bad. Half Moon Bay could have used the boost.   

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Small Digital Miracle

After two months, this blog is back. Why was it MIA for so long? Simple. Your correspondent couldn't access it from his home computer. The precise reason was never really clear. However, this morning, by some digital miracle, it was again possible to log on. Needless to say, there was rapture in the hallowed household bunker where all important things electronic reside. So, on occasion, these musings will pop up for your tender consideration once more. Your faithful servant is geared up and ready.     

A Great Night in San Mateo

The San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau scored again Wednesday night in San Mateo. The Bureau, under the leadership of CEO Anne LeClair, presented the 22nd Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet at the San Mateo County Event Center. About 250 people attended the affair, held in conjunction with the San Mateo County Fair. Ten individuals were added to the Hall of Fame. They included: Chuck Bradley, Nancy Dinges, Jim Harbaugh, Charles Lowery, Katie May, Edwin Mulitalo, Paul Noce, Mark Reischling, Warren {Locomotive) Smith and Erica Reynolds Woliczko. They bring the grand total of inductees to more than 220. Wednesday's guest speaker was Mark Speckman, new head football coach at Menlo College and a graduate of Carlmont High School in Belmont. Born without hands, Speckman noted that, as a youngster growing up on the Peninsula, his football coaches had to get used to the idea that not all techniques would work for him. For instance, tips on how to catch a football properly (setting the hands/fingers in a diamond alignment) was not exactly relevant for him. He had to learn things his own way. The Hall of Fame is located at the San Mateo County History Museum in Redwood City.