Blog Archives

Kevin O’Neill: Tom’s and Kevin’s Excellent Adventure


If you listened to the show on Wednesday, July 19th, you know that Tom and I have embarked on an ambitious project. We’re going to design our version of a healthcare bill over the course of several shows. Why? Because nobody else has been able to craft something acceptable… and because both of us have a perverse idea of what’s fun. What do we plan to do with our proposal when we’re done? We’re going to make it the basis for saying “I told you so” for years to come.

Anti-Trust Law

For openers, we discussed anti-trust law and how it applies to health care… or to be more precise, how it isn’t applied to health care. For example, section 8.2 (e) of the Clayton Act says:

(e) Furnishing services or facilities for processing, handling, etc.

It shall be unlawful for any person to discriminate in favor of one purchaser against another purchaser or purchasers of a commodity bought for resale, with or without processing, by contracting to furnish or furnishing, or by contributing to the furnishing of, any services or facilities connected with the processing, handling, sale, or offering for sale of such commodity so purchased upon terms not accorded to all purchasers on proportionally equal terms.

In other words, the Clayton Act says charging different prices for the same service to insurance network purchasers vs individuals paying in cash is “unlawful,” yet that’s routine practice in the health care business.

The Clayton Act is but one example of common health care economics being at odds with anti-trust law, and these practices have become so common over the years that they have become accepted as standard. Can the mold be broken at this point? It can be broken. It is being broken. Check these organizations as examples:

Atlas MD

Surgery Center of Oklahoma

Both organizations have a published prices for their services that apply to everyone whether insured or not, Atlas for routine care and Surgery Center for major medical procedures. If you take a few minutes to browse their websites, you will find that health care pricing does not need to be a mystery that only a medical records and billing professional can decipher.

As we consider principles that underlie our proposal, expect following the law to make the cut.


Today we agreed on the following goals, the big, broad, issues we want to address. The goals have a “mom and apple pie” tenor; but they are important because anything we propose must address each one.

The goals are:

  1. Provide access to quality health care for all.
  2. Put downward pressure on the cost of routine care.
  3. Put downward pressure on insurance premium prices.
  4. Address the pre-existing conditions issue.

Have we missed anything?


We’re going to discuss principles next. Principles are the boundaries. Once we agree on them, all aspects of the solution must stay in bounds. This is my opening list of principles. Tom is likely to add a few of his own; and, despite the obvious brilliance behind each principle, he might object to a few of them. Tune in on Friday for the debate.

  1. Purchasing insurance is a choice, but paying for medical care is a responsibility.
  2. Contrary to the belief of too many elected officials, most people are not too stupid to manage their affairs. People who sign leases, purchase homes, buy cars, feed their families on tight budgets, and perform dozens of other important tasks every day are eminently capable of managing their health insurance and health care.
  3. Uncoupling insurance from employment allows consumers to keep their policies as long as they pay premiums.
  4. Individual insurance plans can be tailored to life circumstances.
  5. Group insurance plans are, in most cases, economical.
  6. Poor people should have the same kinds of choices everyone else has.
  7. Non-insurance solutions (like Atlas MD) should be part of the solution.
  8. Healthy lifestyles can and should be rewarded.
  9. Nobody will be forced to buy or provide any products or services they consider unethical.
  10. Competition is good. Therefore all laws that protect competition (antitrust and related) must be followed.
  11. If there are restrictions or mandates, they must apply to Congress too.
  12. Design the solution for the benefit of most (percentage TBD) and deal with those who don’t fit as one-offs.

Tweet or post me your additions to the principles. We’ll include them if we like them, and we’ll make fun of you if we don’t.


Follow Stocks & Jocks on Twitter — Follow Kevin O’Neill on Twitter

Kevin O’Neill: Who’s In the Mirror?

Tom and his Stocks and Jocks guests were discussing the London attacks a few weeks ago when the “why” question was asked. Is it economic circumstances, desperation, or US incursions in the Middle East… or is it something else?

It’s something else. Specifically, these attacks are committed by people who adhere to a rigid ideology and refuse to accept the legitimacy of all others. There is a mindset that goes with labeling others infidels that is well past passionate disagreement. Once one believes that infidels are lesser creatures, once one believes that the spread of Sharia Law is commandment, and once one believes that those who disagree are evil, terrorizing others into capitulation and subjugation becomes a viable tactic.

A recent Islamic State (ISIS) manifesto said, “Even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam.”

They hate us

Certainly ISIS claims other grievances, but they ultimately are tied to accepting Islam not only as faith but as law. The manifesto explains why they hate us:

  1. Because you are disbelievers: “We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah – whether you realize it or not – by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son, you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices.”
  2. Because you are liberal: “We hate you because your secular, liberal societies permit the very things that Allah has prohibited while banning many of the things He has permitted, a matter that doesn’t concern you because you Christian disbelief and paganism 32 separate between religion and state, thereby granting supreme authority to your whims and desires via the legislators you vote into power.”
  3. Because some of you are atheist: “In the case of the atheist fringe, we hate you and wage war against you because you disbelieve in the existence of your Lord and Creator.”
  4. For your crimes against Islam: “We hate you for your crimes against Islam and wage war against you to punish you for your transgressions against our religion.”
  5. For your crimes against Muslims: “We hate you for your crimes against the Muslims; your drones and fighter jets bomb, kill, and maim our people around the world, and your puppets in the usurped lands of the Muslims oppress, torture, and wage war against anyone who calls to the truth.”
  6. For invading our lands: “We hate you for invading our lands and fight you to repel you and drive you out. As long as there is an inch of territory left for us to reclaim, jihad will continue to be a personal obligation on every single Muslim.”

This brings me to my point.

Are we any different?

How does tolerance for different ways of thinking in the 2017 United States of America compare to the above? Do we debate, or do we demonize?

I am not asking about the idiot fringe on both the left and the right. I’m asking about the political mainstream – politicians, television and radio pundits, and other high profile people who influence how the masses think.

Compare the following statements, and explain the difference in tolerance.

“Allah does not love the infidels. … They are the residents of Hell, and will there forever abide.” – Sheikh Abdar Razaq Afifi, deputy president of the Department of Guidance and a member of the Board of Great Ulema of Saudi Arabia.

“Republicans don’t believe in the imagination, partly because so few of them have one, but mostly because it gets in the way of their chosen work, which is to destroy the human race and the planet. Human beings, who have imaginations, can see a recipe for disaster in the making; Republicans, whose goal in life is to profit from disaster and who don’t give a hoot about human beings, either can’t or won’t. Which is why I personally think they should be exterminated before they cause any more harm.” — The Village Voice’s Michael Feingold, in a theater review of all places

“At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?” – Talk show host Erick Erickson

How about some demonizing from elected officials?

Every member of Congress knows in his gut what’s in the people’s interest and what’s in K Street’s interest. If you think your real boss is some smug guy in a corner office with his Gucci loafers up on a mahogany deck and not the folks back home, those folks who voted for you, who gave you 25 or 50 hard-earned bucks, who put up yard signs and made calls for you, you deserve to lose. Shame on you, you shouldn’t just be fired, you should be tarred and feathered as the original tea partiers would have done. That’s my view and I welcome yours. – Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

“That Scott down there that’s running for governor of Florida. Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him. He stole billions of dollars from the United States government and he’s running for governor of Florida. He’s a millionaire and a billionaire. He’s no hero. He’s a damn crook. It’s just we don’t prosecute big crooks.” — Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, right,” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it; and unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.” — Former Secretary Clinton at an LGBTQI fundraiser.

Lock her up, Crooked Hillary, Lying Ted Cruz, Little Marco…

“The Republicans’ plan boils down to this: Dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance.” – Barack Obama

“As your governor, you’re going to be seeing a lot of me on the front page, saying ‘Governor LePage tells Obama to go to hell.”‘ — Maine Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage

“Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians… Probably the Republicans.” Hillary Clinton, remarking on the enemies she is most proud to have made.

“If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” – retweeted from Donald Trump’s Twitter account (later blamed on a campaign)

It isn’t much of a leap to, as ISIS does, call for violence. I’ll bet it’s more mainstream than you think.

“A spoiled child (Bush) is telling us our Social Security isn’t safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here’s your answer, you ungrateful whelp: (audio sound of 4 gunshots being fired.) Just try it, you little b*stard. (audio of gun being cocked).” — A “humor bit” from the Randi Rhodes Show

“You have got to say no to this, and if they push this through, you need to riot in the streets. You need to riot in the streets. Our country was built on revolution and it’s about time we took it back. These people are dangerous. It’s about time to put an end to this leftist control of this country, and if a revolution is what it takes, damn it, then that’s what it’s going to take, because liberty will not be denied.” – Radio host Jim Quinn

“You guys see Live and Let Die, the great Bond film with Yaphet Kotto as the bad guy, Mr. Big? In the end they jam a big CO2 pellet in his face and he blew up. I have to tell you, Rush Limbaugh is looking more and more like Mr. Big, and at some point somebody’s going to jam a CO2 pellet into his head and he’s going to explode like a giant blimp. That day may come. Not yet. But we’ll be there to watch. I think he’s Mr. Big, I think Yaphet Kotto. Are you watching, Rush?” — Chris Matthews

“Violent protesters who shut down free speech? Time for another Kent State perhaps. One bullet stops a lot of thuggery,” — Marquette County MI GOP secretary Dan Adamini

“This is absolutely outrageous,” the group tweeted sarcastically, linking to the story. “House Republicans should NOT be shot! They should be guillotined.” — The Young Democratic Socialists at the University of Georgia, responding to a professor’s comment that Republicans “should be lined up and shot.”

“The vast right-wing conspiracy blame has been undermined by her [Clinton’s] evasions, by her outright lies, if I may say, by her pandering, by her race-baiting, and now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama – Obama – well, both if we could.” — Fox News contributor Liz Trotta

“If I had my way, I would see Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell strapped down to electric chairs and lit up like Christmas trees. The better to light the way for American Democracy and American Freedom!” — Democratic Talk Radio’s Stephen Crockett

“Go to your Congressman’s office and scream at him in the most colorful language possible. Hang him in effigy at protests. If you’re willing to do the time for the crime, have a swing at him.” Washington Examiner contributor Bob Owens

“Or pick up a baseball bat and take out every f*cking republican and independent I see. #f*cktrump, #f*cktheGOP, #f*ckstraightwhiteamerica, #f*ckyourprivilege.” — Orange is the New Black star Lea DeLaria responding to a meme about using music to deal with violence

“I think they should be allowed to build it followed by the hijacking of an Iranian plane right into that building and blow it to smithereens.” — Denver Post columnist Mike Rosen regarding the proposed Islamic community center in Manhattan

When demonizing isn’t enough

Islamist propaganda goes beyond calling infidels evil. They are dehumanized – vile animals and beasts, perverted transgressors and partners of Satan to be fought until religion is Allah’s alone. We Americans never would stoop that low, would we? Would we? Of course we would. In fact, dehumanizing political opposition is fashionable in some circles.

O&A: “Condoleezza Rice”

Charlie: “I’d love to f— that b*tch dude” (laughter). “She’s the F—in man”

O&A: “yeah”

Charlie “I’d F…that b*tch.”

O&A: “I just imagine the horror in Condoleezza Rice’s face…” (laughter) “as she realizes what’s going on as you were just holding her down and F’n her.”

Charlie: “Punch her all the F’n face, shut the F— up b*tch”

O&A: “That’s exactly what I meant” (laughter in background)

Charlie: “You know F— it …. and George Bush wife? I’d F— that b*tch to death” — “Shock Jocks” Opie & Anthony talk rape & violence with their guest “Homeless Charlie.”

Ted Nugent can make a greatest hits album of his ugly comments – He has called President Obama a “piece of shit” and a “subhuman mongrel” He called Hillary Clinton a “worthless bitch” and called for her to “ride one of these (guns) into the sunset.” He told Obama to “suck on my machine gun.”

“Violence solves nothing. I want a rhino to f*ck @SpeakerRyan to death with its horn because it’s FUNNY, not because he’s a #GOPmurderbro.” – Jos Whedon

“I went down this morning to sign up my Dog for welfare. At first the lady said, ‘Dogs are not eligible to draw welfare’. So I explained to her that my Dog is black, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and has no frigging clue who his Daddy is. So she looked in her policy book to see what it takes to qualify… My Dog gets his first check Friday. Is this is a great country or what? — Virginia Beach (Va.) Republican Committee Chairman David Bartholomew

“Sarah Palin needs to have her hair shaved off to a buzz cut, get headf*cked by a big veiny, ashy, black d*ck then be locked in a cupboard.” — Azealia Banks advocating rape

Once the opposition isn’t human, anything said or done is okay. That’s how ISIS members behead infidel mongrels, record the deeds, and put them online to terrorize opposition and delight followers without a second thought. The examples above follow the same dehumanization path. What’s next?


When it’s good versus evil, we’re expected to pick a side; and in such a war, there is no room for dissent. Follow orders without question. Shout down the opposition. Ridicule them. Eliminate the Republican Democrat infidel dogs.

Don’t question orthodoxy. ISIS doesn’t tolerate it. In increasing numbers, Americans don’t tolerate it either.

Consider a selection of responses from the left when liberal Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi dared to draw the distinction between Russian meddling and the Trump campaign’s collusion.

Here’s a way to evaluate that heuristic: Could you be “an independent voice” and “skeptical of both sides” and still publish 100% bullshit? (Taibbi’s response: Sure. But at least you would know it was my bullshit, and not some party’s talking points.)

btw I’d rather be in sync w/ Dem Party than in sync w/ Fox News talking points abt how Russia investigation is media “hysteria” (Taibbi’s response: Hey, Eric – when was the last time you had an opinion that wasn’t exactly in sync with the Democratic Party?)

Yeah, fuck the Democratic Party and all of its opinions. Let’s try this argument in 2018 and see what happens — is that okay, Matt? (Taibbi’s response: If you’d like your reporters to be mouthpieces for political parties, there are plenty of news outlets that will accommodate you.)

Charles Krauthammer wrote an article called “The Guardrails Can’t Contain Trump” and got these responses and many more like them from fellow conservatives.

What in the world are you talking about? Are you being paid off for outright lies or are just this one-sided you can’t see the truth?

I use to be a fan of yours. You cannot accept @Potus just like the dems. Why dont you give this country a break and let the man #MAGA

We once listened with respect when @krauthammer commented but that was prior to mindlessly impulsive unfair comments made towards @Potus

What exactly is wrong with you?

I find both authors to be honest brokers who, while ideologically driven, offer opinions that they can support with facts. Agree or disagree, they spout no party lines; and for that they are candidates for excommunication from their preferred political parties. Sharyl Attkisson says it well in her soon-to-be released book The Smear.

The trend to censor & silence rather than inform, listen and/or persuade is (in my opinion) damaging to what we’re supposed to be about.

Is it hopeless?

When it comes to politics, Americans should not like what they see in the mirror. Unfortunately only a few have taken a good long look.

Warren Buffett has looked. “I believe in hate the sin, love the sinner, and I also believe in praising by name and criticizing by category.” He went on to say, “I think it’s a mistake to get angry with your, with people that disagree with you. In the end we do have to work together… And it does not help when you demonize or get too violent with the people you’re talking to.”

Ted Nugent has looked, too. “At the tender age of 69, my wife has convinced me that I just can’t use those harsh terms,” he said last week. “I cannot, and I will not; and I encourage even my friends-slash-enemies on the left in the Democrat and liberal world that we have got to be civil to each other. I’m going to take a deep breath and I am going to back it down; and if it gets fiery, if it gets hateful, I’m going away. I’m not going to engage in that kind of hateful rhetoric anymore.”

For my part, I look to the words of Martin Luther King in his famous speech in Washington on August 28, 1963.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

Dr. King led a movement of people who first were enslaved and, though technically free, were oppressed for another century. No leader had more cause to demonize than he, yet he resisted the urge and exhorted his followers to do the same.

Can we heed his words in 2017?


Follow Stocks & Jocks on Twitter — Follow Kevin O’Neill on Twitter

Kevin O’Neill: The Fine-Tuned Machine (Revisited)

When I was young, I worked for a man named George Butvilas. George was a Vice President at American National Bank in Chicago when I first met him. I worked for George four different times, but my fondest memories are tied to that first staff position I had working for him at American National’s Tel-A-Data subsidiary when I was in my mid-twenties.

We had a weekly one-on-one meeting, and I don’t think one of these passed without George imparting a nugget of management wisdom. Inevitably, one of our meeting topics led to, “Kevin, this is Management Lesson Number…” Other than management lesson #1 (Hire good people), I’m certain the numbers were randomly chosen in the moment; but the wisdom always was a nugget of pure gold.

Now I’m old, and I have some nuggets of my own to share; so suspend your political point of view, and suspend your opinion of Trump himself. The context is political, but this is Management Lesson #24 for aspiring leaders.

Three months ago, President Trump claimed that his administration was operating like a fine-tuned machine; and three months ago, I told you why that was impossible under the best of circumstances.

Whether you embrace the Tuckman model or you evaluate your team’s development on a less structured continuum from immature to mature, leaders must (a) understand where their teams are and (b) adapt their behavior to provide what their teams needs to progress. Clearly Trump didn’t understand his team when I wrote the blog entry three months ago, and he might not understand any better now.

Prolonged chaos is the result – inconsistent messaging, leaks as staff members vie for power and chase their own agendas, etc. The administration is in the worst possible place, stuck on storming with no end in sight.

Leading a team is a skill entirely different from making deals or having popular ideas. It’s hard work. It’s a challenge, even for experienced leaders. If the leader can’t or doesn’t do it well, luck is the only way a team can become cohesive.

The CEO/COO model is an alternative. It’s what worked for Bill Clinton after two years of storming during his first term. Leon Panetta replaced longtime FoB Mack McLarty, redirected the team to the Clinton agenda, and created a functioning administration.

Clearly Reince Preiebus doesn’t have control of the team. That shouldn’t be a big surprise for those who paid attention to his time at the RNC. Unless you think his last act was getting Trump elected which I’d say happened despite the RNC, Priebus’ last act was the attempt to engineer a victory for Jeb Bush.

Media creatures are reporting rumors about personnel changes when Trump returns from World Tour 2017. Only one change matters. See what Trump does with his COO spot, the Chief of Staff. With media, Democrats, and a portion of the Republican party opposing him, he needs his Executive Branch in his corner. The Chief of Staff has that responsibility.

We’ll see.


Follow Stocks & Jocks on Twitter — Follow Kevin O’Neill on Twitter

Kevin O’Neill: Keep It Simple, Stupid

From ‘Stocks and Jocks’ on Friday, May 5th 2017…

Tom Haugh: I have a question for you two mavens regarding the way government works; and Matty, please opine as well. I’ll go back to Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty. If you just would have taken the money we spent in the war on poverty, and all the people’s fingers in the pie along the way, and divided it by the amount of poor people and sent them a check, we wouldn’t have had any poor people. In this particular situation with Obamacare we had 20 million people that didn’t have insurance. Why the hell couldn’t we have just bought them insurance? I gotta believe in the long run it would have been a hell of a lot cheaper, but we can never do something like that… Someday, somewhere you’ll hear people say that we went from 20 million people uninsured to 80 million people underinsured. It seems like we never can go directly to the source… Why can’t we ever do the simplest thing?

Wayne Madsen: One reason is that you don’t want to be sending individuals checks because they have no guarantee they’ll use that money for what it’s intended. It’s like the old story about someone who lives in the hills of West Virginia and doesn’t have a dime to their name and wins the Powerball lottery. Then they go back five years later and the individual is not in a mansion but is back in the same double-wide trailer with no money because he spent it all.

Of course we can do the simplest thing, and I’m here to tell you how.

The Math

The Obama Administration claimed 20 million people have been added to the rolls of people covered by insurance since ACA passed. It’s a debatable number for two reasons. We don’t know how many people enrolled via Obamacare exchanges after their existing plans were canceled; and we don’t know how many people logged on, enrolled, and never paid a premium or let policies lapse after being unable to afford their premiums after a few payments.

But let’s not quibble. I’ll go with 20 million.

The most recent 10-year CBO score said Obamacare is costing $2.004 trillion, that is to say $200.4 billion per year. That means we’re paying $10,200 per person enrolled per year just to have them enrolled. Taking it to monthly cost, we’re spending $835 per person per month just to get the 20 million people enrolled. They still have to pay their premiums.

Some of those premiums are subsidized to the tune of $56 billion per year, so let’s take that off of the enrollment cost and call it the largesse of taxpayers. That lowers the monthly cost of enrollment per person to $602.

Think about that. A good policy could be had for $200 per month before Obamacare, and a deluxe policy might have cost as much as $400 per month. Now we’re paying $602 per month just to get people to sign up, and we’re patting ourselves on the back for it.

That leads us back to Mr. Haugh’s question. Why can’t we do the simplest thing? Why can’t we just buy insurance for those who can’t afford it? And while we were at it, why couldn’t we have left everyone else alone instead of imposing substantially higher premiums and deductibles on them?

If being sure the money is spent on health care is the problem, I have a solution… and easy and obvious solution.

I tired of explaining my position repeatedly during health care debate #1 back in 2009 and 2010, so I committed my thoughts to a document I could share. I’m convinced more than ever that it’s the direction we should go. Read it for the full reasoning. Here’s the proposal.

Health Savings Accounts

Make the following changes to HSAs:

  1. Allow insurance premium payments from HSAs.
  2. Fund HSAs directly for those who qualify for government health benefits, and let recipients choose their own insurance carriers and plans. This will reduce the cost of getting people enrolled dramatically; and if we need to turn some of that cost reduction into education about buying insurance, money is better spent creating well educated consumers.
  3. Encode HSA debit cards to be designated as such, and restrict purchases using those cards to insurance premiums, medical care, prescription drugs, and over the counter health care items. This will prevent HSA owners from misusing funds. Debit cards have special encoding, so that part is built into the credit card processing system just waiting to be activated; and every purchase item has a UPC bar code. We aren’t inventing here. We’re using existing functionality.

But there’s more.

If people can use HSAs to buy insurance, insurance can easily be uncoupled from employment. That eliminates the biggest reason for the pre-existing condition problem – loss of insurance because of job loss or job change. People will be able to buy individual policies that remain in force as long as they pay premiums; and as an alternative, they should be able to buy group policies via non-employment affiliations that aren’t transient.

That doesn’t mean employers shouldn’t or can’t provide health care benefits. They would be welcome, even encouraged by competition for talent, to make contributions to their employees’ HSAs. This is an arrangement employers should love. Provide a health care benefit without all of the expenses related to offering several insurance options to employees, and don’t worry about being a referee every time an employee has a dispute with the carrier.

Other Benefits

Aside from lowering the government’s overhead cost, funneling more spending through HSAs actually can bend the cost curve. That’s a promise Obamacare hasn’t kept.

‘Stocks and Jocks’ contributor Karl Denninger has written extensively about eliminating unnecessary health care costs via rational administrative expenses, better health habits, and other solid ideas. I’d like to add the notion of lowering premium costs by building an HSA balance; and by proposing that everyone including poor people will have HSAs, it’s a benefit that would accrue to one and all.

It’s simple… At least is was simple before Obamacare drove up the price of everyone’s insurance. Higher deductibles mean lower premiums. As an HSA builds a balance that would be used to pay a deductible, the owner can lower his premium by purchasing a higher deductible plan. Build a $5,000 balance; buy a plan with a $5,000 deductible. Build a $10,000 balance because you haven’t had a major medical expense for years; buy a plan with a $10,000 deductible. Build the balance over the course of a typical adult’s lifetime and maybe it won’t cost so much to have insurance in the time between qualifying for the senior discount at the buffet and qualifying for Medicare.


It’s a simple solution. It’s less expensive. It solves problems. It gives consumers more freedom.

Too bad the government is involved. It will never happen.


Follow Stocks & Jocks on Twitter — Follow Kevin O’Neill on Twitter

Kevin O’Neill: Are You Prepared?

A situation

You have a small business, an electrical contractor doing residential and small business work. Three electricians work for you. You have three trucks, and all are on the road moving from job to job every workday.

One day your electrician gets into a traffic accident with a hothead. The hothead becomes aggressive. He pushes your employee, and your guy decks him. The police are called, and they in turn call paramedics to treat the hothead for a broken cheekbone and likely concussion.

Bystanders with smartphones start recording the incident as it escalates and post the video on social media. It has been tweeted and re-tweeted thousands of times with the simple title “Electrician sends man to hospital.” There is no context explaining who started the altercation, and your truck is prominent in the video.

You first hear about the situation comes when your phone rings and reporter from the local television station is asking for your comment. By then the video has gone viral, and your business is taking thousands of verbal beatings.

How about this one…

Your company sells its products online. One day, a hacker penetrates your cyber-defense; and the hacker is bragging about it… with a cartoon caricature of your logo saying, “Noob, you’ve been hacked!” on your website’s home page.

It would have been nice if visitors to your website had contacted you, but they didn’t. Instead, someone shared the altered home page via Facebook and Twitter; and the news is halfway to viral before you have your first inkling that there is a problem. Local news organizations have re-tweeted the news and posted it on their Facebook sites; and their reporters are calling to ask for comment.

One more…

You’re CEO of a major airline, and there is an incident on one of your airplanes. I’ll spare you the details other than to say that a 69 year old doctor has been forcibly removed from his seat, dragged down the aisle of the plane, and taken back to the concourse because your employees wanted to be on the flight.

Before you hear word one about the incident, other passengers have posted recordings on social media; and the video was viral in 25 minutes.

Your comment, please!

Are you prepared to comment? If not, maybe you will be lucky. Maybe you won’t say something you will regret.  Maybe you won’t make yourself the subject of ridicule.

Or maybe you will take a lesson from the United Airlines. Maybe you will prepare yourself to comment intelligently so that people will respect you and your business because of the way you deal with a bad situation.

What could go wrong?

The first step is practice. Of course it isn’t possible to imagine everything that could go wrong; but the more you exercise your crisis management thought process, the better you will be at responding on the fly.

Read case studies. Invent your own scenarios – big disaster scenarios and smaller nuisance situations. Outline your responses, and ask people you trust to critique them.

If you practice, you have a good chance to comment intelligently in real time. If you don’t practice, your chances are greatly diminished.

The principles of a good response

Before you’re ready to utter word one, take yourself through this thought process.

  1. Who needs to hear from you? One or more of a public statement, a message to employees, and a statement to customers might be appropriate; and while the content of each communiqué might be different, you can count on all of them becoming public. Be consistent.
  2. What media are appropriate for your statements? Social media? News conference? Press release? Letter? Email? Try not to overreact, but be sure you don’t underreact.
  3. What are your values? Be sure your statements reflect them; and if people (employees and customers) aren’t at the top of the list, revise your values.
  4. Say what you know, and say what you don’t know. Don’t fill in the blanks with speculation.
  5. Don’t be a weasel. Using words like United’s “re-accommodate” and “politely asked” engendered as much criticism as the situation itself.
  6. Consider possible litigation. You can express concern for those adversely affected by a situation without admitting fault even if that proves to be the case as you learn the facts.
  7. Support your employees. Employees need to know that management has their backs. That doesn’t mean that anything one does is condoned; but it does mean that the employee’s side will be heard, and it does mean that employees will get the policy and procedural support to deal with situations that will arise in the future.
  8. Promise follow-up. Then follow up. Few people expect problems to be resolved immediately, but most expect good faith efforts to resolve them quickly.

Great communicators aren’t born. They’re just more prepared than everyone else.


Follow Stocks & Jocks on Twitter — Follow Kevin O’Neill on Twitter