Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Gun Safes are Important

Target shooting is great as a sport for recreational purposes. Nancy Lanza of Newtown Connecticut enjoyed the sport up until the point where her son, Adam Lanza, stole her two handguns and her .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle... and then killed her with them.

Adam then went to the local elementary school, where he murdered 26 people, including 20 children, before shooting himself with one of the handguns.

Police and politicians (including President Obama) are now speculating as to how this horrible and horrific crime might have been prevented.

I have a very quick and easy solution: MAKE GUN SAFES MANDATORY.

If you own a gun, you must store it in a secure gun safe. Easy.

It prevents theft. It prevents family members from taking your gun and killing you or other people with it.

Gun theft is a huge crime in the USA.

According to a State-by-State analysis of firearm theft and crime in the USA, 1.7 million firearms were stolen from homes and elsewhere over the period between January 1993 and August 2002.

The States of Alaska, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Georgia had firearm theft rates greater than twice the national average because they don't have any laws governing the storage of firearms in gun safes. Firearm theft rates were dramatically lower in States with safe storage laws.

The same study suggests that there is a need for a federal law concerning the safe-storage of firearms as a means to reduce firearm theft.

Now some people think, hey, safes can be cracked or what if you share your code for opening with the wrong person... Well, there is a solution for that too. They now have biometric safes on the market that use fingerprint scanners. That means quick and easy access for the person who needs it, and futility for the would be thief.

And in the aftermath of the Newtown Elementary School Shooting I think it is perfectly logical that citizens carefully consider where they lock up their guns. If America wants to have the right to bear firearms, fine, but they should be storing those firearms in a safe location where they cannot be stolen so easily.

Let alone be stolen and be used to murder children.

There are plenty of other kinds of safes one might consider buying too.

Cannon Safes - Large heavy duty safes for storing multiple guns.

Drawer Safes - Good for home or office desk drawer.

Fire Resistant Safes - Self explanatory. A lot harder to get into, even with a cutting torch.

Personal Safes - Great for storing jewelry or a small handgun in.

Pistol Safes - Great for storing your favourite handgun.

Quick Access Safes - Similar to biometric safes, but with several other options.

Standard Home Safes - Usually used for storing family photos, legal documents, but can still be used for gun storage.

Wall Safes - Multi-purpose and looks great behind a painting.

Waterproof Safes - Self explanatory.

I think the end result is there is a lot of options out there for people that want to be responsible about how they store their belongings. Especially something as dangerous as a firearm.

Something as simple as two kids playing cops and robbers for example could end in a deadly accident if one of them finds an unlocked gun. In a 1987 episode of the TV show Dallas, Christopher and John Ross have a mock gunfight, and Sue Ellen sends them to play outside. Unable to find a toy gun, Christopher takes Bobby's revolver and after some hide and seek, he takes a shot at John Ross; he misses, only shattering a screen door.

But that story could have ended very differently.

And it does. Gun accidents in the USA kill over 600 Americans per year. Accidents that could have been prevented through proper storage and behaving responsibly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Medical Claims, Forms and Insurance

I have never had to fill out a form for a medical claim.

Now part of that is that I've never been seriously sick, never broken an arm or a leg, and I've never needed serious medical attention.

Another part is that I live in Canada - where health insurance is free and paid for by the Canadian government.

Thus filling out forms for medical claims to be emailed to insurance companies... well, I've just never needed to do so.

Furthermore when traveling overseas my only worry has been travel health insurance. Which to be fair, I've never been forced to use.

Now there was that one time I nearly fell off a cliff I was climbing in Jeollabuk-do province in South Korea... I was doing some freehand climbing (no ropes) and I slipped, and I could have fallen to my death or at least been seriously injured.

But I didn't fall thankfully.

Also I am pretty fit. I admit I went through a fatter stage years ago, but I've since lost 40 lbs of fat and put on a healthy chunk of muscle. Basically the point I am making here is that I am unlike the typical American, who is either overweight or obese, and therefore has a lot more medical problems.

Thus as a non-American I have never had to fill out any UB04 claim forms. I barely even know what an UB04 claim form is.

Call it a fundamental difference between the USA and Canada. In Canada we have a health card. When we go to a hospital or a clinic we just pass them our health card to prove we are Canadian. Its a bit like having a credit card with unlimited access. In the USA its all about money being funneled through the insurance industry and then they scratch their heads and wonder why health care in the USA is so darn expensive because its never occurred to them to cut out the middle man.

Put simply an UB04 claim form is a very commonly used document in the USA and is a reimbursement claim form submitted by:
  • ambulance companies and helicopter ambulance companies
  • ambulatory surgery centers
  • home health care agencies / clinics
  • hospice organizations
  • hospitals (emergency department, psychiatric department, inpatient, and outpatient services)
  • psychiatric drug/alcohol treatment facilities (inpatient and outpatient services)
  • skilled nursing facilities
  • sub-acute facilities
  • stand-alone clinical/laboratory facilities
  • walk-in clinics
 And so forth. Basically any medical facility in the USA you go to they probably have a few of the forms kicking around.

Now the thing is that companies that manufacture such forms (somebody has to print them out after all!) sell these forms by the truckload to various facilities and insurance companies. Its a lot of paper being wasted, and some of it is presumably recycled, although often such things are placed in warehouses full of records, because insurance companies are perfectionists about keeping old records for everything.

Now the good news however is that some companies are now creating these documents electronically, which means they can also be submitted electronically... Which is great. Saves on postage and shipping costs. Saves on trees too.

Although to be fair, I once worked for a pension plan company, and they also track health claims (because if somebody is off work for 6 months, then in theory they aren't entitled to a pension for that time period unless they can prove an illness or disability with a doctor's note)... And do you know what the company does?

They receive the document electronically and then they print it out as a backup copy (which is then placed in a warehouse full of old records, because pension companies are also perfectionists about keeping old records).

So what is the moral of this story?

Move to Canada maybe? No, not really. We don't really want hordes of Americans moving to Canada. Sounds like a really bad idea.

Is the moral that we do things electronically now, but we still print out backup copies anyway? No, not really. These days the recycling / paper industry is pretty self sustaining.

I think the issue is that some companies are idiots when it comes to keeping records of everything. Sure, the USA needs their UB04 forms for everything because that is just the system they use down there. But eventually they need to start recycling all those old documents in warehouses after 10 or 20 years. Or just get rid of the physical backup copies anyway. Yes, I know, better safe than sorry in case something ever happens to the digital copy...

But to be fair if its stored on warehouses of computers (which I estimate takes up a lot less space than thousands of warehouses full of paper records) the only way those records are going to be destroyed is if there's a nuclear bomb or a flood or some kind of horrific tragedy.

In which case, paper records burn anyway. And water from a flood would likewise destroy them. Thus we would have much bigger worries to worry about than a few lost records from old insurance claims.

Thus why not just go completely digital in the first place? Paper documents will just burn anyway.

Just a thought!

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