Monday, October 26, 2009

Blue Shield Still Sucks

Trust me. First see this post:

Now after 6 months of runaround, they want my wife to get a full physical (at our cost), reams of documentation, etc, etc, and then they MIGHT do us the favor of taking our business...

Six months ago I wasn't for big reform, but now I hope these insurance bastards are all run out of business...


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Luck to all NU 84s, and thanks for a great weekend

So, wifi from 35K never ceases to amaze.

Twenty five years seems like a long time, and hey, I guess it is about 1/3 of your life, hopefully a bit less. Walking the Northwestern campus was like a strange time warp, seem like nothing had changed but everything had too. 1980-1984 seems like a distant dream. Then walking into the reunion party and seeing the faces from that dream was both exciting and a bit unsettling. Some great people, and most seemed to have changed yet stayed the same.

I think of my journey since then, a long and winding road, filled with dreams fulfilled and for the greatest most part joy and a luckily relatively small amount of sorrow. I think of all the transitions, from engineer to sales rep to business person, from Chicago to NY to Chicago to Ca, from single to married to father, and it is hard to imagine to have asked for a more fufilling journey.

Many years ago, my old high school wrestling coach had a saying, "luck is when preparation meets opportunity." Northwestern truly did prepare me for life. The education, both in and outside the classroom, the people, everything, must of made me a very lucky man. I've had a thrilling career, and am blessed with an amazing wife and 4 incredible little ones. Who woulda predicted that? And I was really amazed by the success and maturity that I saw in all those 47 year olds who seem like they were just 22 a few years ago! Well done friends.

Maybe it is a bit ironic that I now find myself at a crossroads of my career, and at a crossroads in the family. I have decided to go out alone as an idependent consultant, and our first child is approaching tween-ness and already showing signs of independence, and hormones :). As I embark on the next 25 years, I've already marked the data for the 50th in 2034, and I think I am prepared well to venture into my new consulting business and to continue to create a loving home for our children to grow in and to eventually leave from. I only hope that my preparation paves the way for more opportunity and luck...and to all those others, fortunate enough to have had the preparation I did, I wish you all the luck

Over and out

Friday, October 16, 2009

Depressing Morning; The Demise of the Newstand!

I was feeling great this morning after a tough spin class and a cappucino, when I stopped at Mac's in downtown Palo Alto to pick up the Silicon Valley Business Journal to see the print copy of this feature on my client Nimsoft! Lo and behold, Mac's didn't have it. Also, all the old guys behind the counter are gone.

When I first moved here in 1990, Mac's was like a lifeline back to the midwest, where I could pick up the Chicago Trib, and even the Sunday Cleveland Plain Dealer. Well, I guess it's no surprise that a) Mac's has been sold b) it barely carries newspapers anymore and c) it has now a wide range of hookah's where the cigar section used to be. (I didn't check if they still had the big adult section, but I'd never go there anyways :)!)

So, with the demise of newspapers, so goes another institution, the neighborhood newstand. I am sure you might find a few of the relics next to phone booths and near subway stations in NYC and London, but that's just a matter of time too. I love the digital world, but am feeling nostolgic and sad about the loss of print.

I predict that when my kids grow old they will say, "My Dad has to be the last man in the world who wears glasses (ie hasn't had lasix) and still reads the newspaper everyday (if I can still find one...) Oh well, old habits die harder than neighborhood institutions!!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I think (like an engineer) , therefore I am (an engineer)!

In 1986, I made a decision that changed my life. I left a blossoming yet new engineering career to dive head first into business, at the most grass roots level, as an IBM sales rep. At the going away party in East Fishkill NY, my friends gave me a t-shirt (long gone to the goodwill) that said something like "Former Engineer - Technically Obsolete!"

Since that fateful day, my career has led me from sales rep, to business school, to CMO, from IBM to Intel to Netscape to successful and not so successful start-ups to my new consulting endeavor, KJR Assocs, from NY to Chicago to the Silicon Valley and to and through the black monday of 87, the dotc0m bubble burst of 2001 and the financial meltdown of 2009...and in all that time engineer has not been a word that I've even considered using to describe myself.

Until this Tuesday, when during the 7th worst rainstorm ever recorded in the bay area, I had an awesome coffee meeting with Julio Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern, my alma mater. Dean Ottino is a really dynamic guy, and I was honored to hear about all the great things he's been up to at NU, and even more flattered for some of the introductions that he offered up in our broad ranging and very entertaining conversation.

One thing sticks out in my mind. When I said to Dean Ottino that I was a "reformed engineer", I was corrected. Dean Ottino said (pardon the paraphrasing...) "It used to be that engineers were judged by what they made, but now they should be judged by how they think"

Dean Ottino also talked about the "Whole brain engineer". Every day of my career I have worked with engineers in some capacity or another, software engineer, systems engineers, developers, EEs, etc and I guess after a while I starting thinking of them as them, not us. I see now that this is a mistake. Thinking like an engineer means problem solving methodically AND creatively, with equations and with the heart. Above all I think it is a commitment to the analytical and the science of shaping the world to the benefit of the society. A daunting and awesome responsibility.

So now, as I prepare to travel to my alma mater for my 25th year (audible gasp) reunion, I am thinking of getting a t-shirt that says, "Think Like an Engineer, and You'll Never be Obsolete!" Thanks for the insight Dean!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

If you want healthcare coverage, amputate your arm don't fix it!

Nothing like a little personal experience to understand the true F*&D-upness of the US's healthcare insurance system. I could rant for hours, but to see the hypocrisy and ridulousity of the system, just read the email we had to send to Blue Shield of California (YOU SUCK!) today.

After you read this you will see why we are considering having my wife's left arm amputated even though it works great (BTW, she's a righty, so no big deal, right?:)). Also, if you break a limb you may consider amputation to protect you from future coverage denial. Don't fix it, throw it out. Not your arm, our whole BS system. I hope Blue Shield of Ca get regulated to death! Just abosultely ridiculous

Dear XXXX,
Attached you will find a scan of all the relevant documents on my applications for Balance 2500 coverage. To recap the timeline for you:

On July 14th, 2008 I shattered my elbow in a freak bicycling accident
On July 17th,2008 I had reconstructive surgery, a radial head arthroplasty for a comminuted radial head fracture
On approx August 20th 2008, I completed physical therapy and have been symptom and treatment free since
In April 2009 : I applied for coverage under the Balance2500 plan on your recommendation
On May 5, 2009, we were informed in the enclosed letter from Jenny K medical underwriter that we were declined coverage because:

"The information indicates that you have the following, which exceeds Blue Shield's Underwriting acceptance criteria:
  • Fractured elbow requiring reconstructive surgery, radial head replacement within last year"
On June 9, 2009 we requested underwriting reconsideration in writing supported by a letter from Dr. Frank Chen stating that I was complication and symptom free, essentially cured. Both of these items are enclosed.

On June 25th 2009, we were informed in writing that we were declined again, and I quote with CAPITAL BOLD italics emphasis being mine:

"We regret to inform you, based on this review, coverage through our Balance2500 plan must be declined UNTIL YOU HAVE BEEN SYMPTOM AND TREATMENT FREE FOR A MINIMUM OF ONE (1) YEAR"


On September 4th I was again declined for coverage with the NEW EXPLANATION:

"This information indicates that you have the following which exceeds Blue Shield's underwriting acceptance criteria:
  • History of fractured radial head with replacement"
Now the criteria is changed? I am a year + post treatment, but now the rule changes. What's is going on here. Please reconsider this application and be reasonable. We are at our wits end here. How does the criteria change when it was clearly stated previously. Are you all just trying to waste our time. This is really frustrating. I WANT coverage, and am healthy.

Thank you for your consideration,

Joel' C Rutsky
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