Our educational system

This topic can generate a multitude of opinions from the most un-erudite  group imaginable. For once, a topic where each one has enough personal experience to talk, instead of spouting theory and conjecture.

It has been my opinion for a long time, that our system needs to be revamped. When I was a student, through primary school and right up to my undergrad, I always said that our system put too much importance to the ability to cram information with the temporary retention of information being the goal. Those who understood concepts well, and refused to cram stuff they did not understand were punished. It drove me crazy, and I could not see a solution.

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Stayed up last night reading a molecular bio type paper. Not my cup of tea at all. Had to spend extra time learning stuff. Man! They use too many abbreviations. Deciphering a paper is the first step to critiquing it! T’was fun though.

I heard a joke about a person walking up to various professionals to ask them how much time they would need to read and understand one book. At the end was an engineer, who asked the only counter-question: when’s the exam?

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Microblogging seems like fun. I can just jot down some ideas as and when they come to me. I have come home to cook dinner, and will go back to the lab after eating. The roomies are watching ER. Why? Dunno!
People work a lot in this world. Somehow things change, and they affect the results of our life-experiments more than any of our efforts.
We can do only what we can. It might seem a little depressing, but in reality, it tends to set you free of responsibility.
What say?

Sibal’s spitball

Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal wants to give a higher weightage to 12th board marks in the IIT qualifiers. Specifically, he wants to raise the minimum 12th board score from 60% to 80-85% for a qualification to the IIT entrance exams. He says that it will reduce the influence of coaching classes, and focus the students on 12th boards.

When did this man turn into the nut he seems to be today?

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Scientific Misconduct – An Insight

“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale
returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

Mark Twain

Human beings are passionate; scientists more so than anyone else. That we take a few given facts and let our imaginations run wild is probably our best quality as far as science is concerned. For centuries, budding scientists have taken for granted many bits of established theories and facts while questioning many others. The result has been a victory for science whether the scientist himself benefits or not.

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Obama’s speech to Congress

America listened with fatigue and weariness as the President announced his healthcare plan. This speech was aired on every news network as well as website or blog.

The president promised that people with some or the other form of insurance right now will not be forced to change anything. He said, “Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime.”

He said that people without coverage are a burden to other taxpayers because of their emergency room visits. Hence he says that it should be mandatory for everyone to carry some basic health insurance. I do find it odd that healthy young people who are unlikely to fall sick that often will be bullied into spending extra money on healthcare.

He says that a public option is mandatory for those who have no coverage and that it will be competing with private insurers and keeping them in check. He also seems to assure that the public option would not be a burden to the taxpayer. It will be run by its own revenue and not on taxation. It is a kind of unfair competition when the government includes one of its players in a game where the others are privately funded. This government-aided player will have the advantage of never failing. Money can be siphoned off from profiting governmental ventures to this player when things get rough. In other words, if the governmental ventures profit, the money won’t be returned to you as a tax refund, or a tax credit, but will actually be used to fund an institution that is not working in the first place.

Business, like evolution, does work by natural selection. Bad businesses should be allowed to fail. At no point do we need to bail out a venture that ends badly. So what if people have invested in it? That is way the game is played. You cannot be a partner in profit only.

I am confused. There is one point though. He is a good speaker. He can sell you any idea. Even when he says something like, “I am not gonna do any reform” which is what he meant when he said, “People on the left want a universal health care system, while people on the right want to abolish the tax breaks on employer provided health care. Doing either of these will be a great change for people who are happy with their health care.”

He said that people without coverage will get the big benefit of his plan, because he will introduce an insurance exchange marketplace, where insurance companies should also come on board because they would jump at the chance of getting new customers. How? These people are uninsured because they’re considered high-risk or high-maintenance by the companies. So what will change now? I believe the government will offer tax breaks to these insurance companies to make it more profitable to insure these people. So, money from your pocket will be used to insure people who are a health care risk, so much of a risk that current insurers do not want them at any cost.

To be fair to the president, we must take care to make sure that the silly myths about Obamacare are dispelled. This plan will not federally fund abortions. It will not insure illegal immigrants. Trust me, Democrats don’t have any advantages in helping illegal immigrants. Republicans benefit more from keeping illegal immigrants here because they work below minimum wage and benefit the small entrepreneur who is the republican base. The other myth is the stupid ‘Death panel’ concept. That is absolutely false. Attach Obamacare on the real points.

For example, Obama said that he wants the public option to be self-sufficient, and not supported by taxation. He said that it will be run like a regular business, but will sidestep some of the overheads and the profits that a private company has, and hence will be able to provide a better deal to the public. This is him making the case for socialized medicine. He will never use those words, but it is pretty much true. However, the VA, Medicare, Medicaid etc are government owned, and percentage of satisfied customers for all these is higher than the privately insured customer base. So, there is a point to be made for a single payer option even though, as Bill Maher puts it, “I know socialized medicine sounds like Stalin himself is going to come over to your house and perform a forced sterilization. But, really all it is, is universal health care.”

As I asked before in my earlier post about this, why can’t every person just vote his interest? Yes, the richest 1% will be paying more than us. So what! Simply put, each person should vote his interest, and not based on some principle and a fantasy of being rich someday. Even though it irritates me that healthy prudent people might be paying for others who cannot afford health or those who are irresponsible with their health, I keep thinking that this beacon of capitalism has public schools, public libraries, parks, unemployment and welfare options, affirmative action, and many other such taxpayer supported programs.

The one thing that Republicans have proposed that makes complete sense is tort reform. It should not be so easy to sue doctors who made judgment calls in the heat of the moment. Doctors who are afraid of being sued increase healthcare costs by ordering superfluous tests simply to back up their already correct diagnoses, paying a lot for malpractice insurance which cost is transferred to the patient, which helps increase his premium, and by refusing to treat patients who might die on the table.

There are a lot of people who are saying that they are happy with their healthcare. Most of them fear getting sick. Forget stuff like serious surgery, some basic visits to a hospital cost a lot. Many medications demand a high co-pay, which makes it tough for people to afford treatment. Some of these people are just lucky that something bad has not happened to them. I would love to treat healthcare as a regular business, but the truth is that people without other luxuries can find a way to live, but this is a necessity that threatens our very life if not present. At some point, when we are opposing reform, we are saying to the uninsurables, “To hell with you. You can die for all I care.”

I think the public option should be inferior to the private one. I think there should be a set of civil hospitals like we have in India: a completely parallel medical system, which does not interfere with the private medical scenario. Freedom to choose is an important right, but mere survival of the weakest of our species should be the least we can expect from people.


Hi guys
I have introduced myself to blogging from the iPhone. That’s right. I will be sharing my idle chatter from any and all places where today’s oxygen (read 3g) is available.

A more perfect universal option

As Obama starts to deliver on what he has been promising ever since the primaries, there is a lot of talk between both wings of the electorate as to how the nation should proceed.

The left wing is deafening in its bid for a public option in healthcare. They are divided into many groups, some of whom believe that a single-payer system is the answer to everything, while others believe that a hybrid of insurance companies with the government is the way to go.

A single payer system basically means that the government will pay for everything. A patient will walk into a doctor’s office, hand him an insurance card, and would have to pay for nothing that ensues. The government picks up the tab. Sounds good huh? Especially if you’ve recently been a victim of the insurance monsters who screwed you with words like co-pay, tier-4, pre-existing condition etc. Let’s however look at it from another point of view. Who is the government? We are. The people have to pay for all this through taxes. There is a good chance that taxes would go up, and that each member of the population will contribute towards the healthcare of every other member. This means you will have to contribute towards the well-being of every chain-smoker, every lardass who gorges on donuts, and cheeseburgers (with bacon) and does not do anything that remotely resembles exercise till his arteries are so clogged that they resemble Milan subway after a heavy rainfall in Mumbai.

A hybrid system (like France has) is one where the government still holds the lion’s share, but there is room for private for-profit organizations in the system. Typically, one has to pay health insurance as a citizen of France, so the system is primarily run by taxation. Around 85% of your healthcare expenses are reimbursed to you, (upto 100% in severe cases). The remaining money can also be recovered using additional insurance. By taxing the higher economic strata at a higher rate (a reasonable system), the average French person contributes roughly1% of his earned income to his own healthcare.

Conservatives like to demonize public option health care as ‘socialized medicine’. I will cop to that. But come on…you guys send your kids to public schools (completely run by govt.), use your local library service, visit places like central park in Manhattan, and don’t seem to complain about the evils of big government then. Nobody seemed to mind when the govt. swooped in and bailed out large banks, which failed due to unbridled capitalism.

F. Scott Fitzgerald has a wonderful quote, “The test of a firstrate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” That is what is expected of the intelligent electorate today. So, let us look at the right-wing and see what irks them about single-payer options.

Capitalism is what sustains America as a nation where anyone can make it big, if he has a good idea and can find the right backers. The Republican party has always favored legislation that supports entrepreneurs and I tend to agree, for it is they who create jobs, and boost the economy. People with jobs ergo people with money, ergo people who can consume the products of other entrepreneurs who will create more jobs, and ideally this cycle should lead to a prosperous free-market economy.

Countries like Canada, the UK, France etc which have universal health care show remarkable delays when it comes to getting appointments for surgeries. I see no way of arguing my way out of this statement. The govt. does function slower than private organizations. What can we do?

Selfishness and greed fuel innovation, and competition helps create excellence. Few people doubt the wisdom in the gist of my previous sentence. What follows logically is that private companies who have their profits as their continuous incentive would innovate more, and their competition would help us get the best products at the lowest price. Shouldn’t this logic work for healthcare as well? Why should there be a halo around healthcare as though it is something divine? (and my readers know too well my opinion of anything regarded as divine!) Let us run healthcare as business, and the same rules can apply. Conservatives also argue that socialized healthcare in other developed countries is well enough, but even they require the tireless innovation of the free-market USA.

Here is a statistic that should shock their conscience. The US govt (specifically the National Institute of Health) funds 28% of the total biomedical research that happens here. This figure is greater than that of the contribution of any one pharmaceutical company. How can we be sure that a higher percentage of govt. funding will be deleterious? I am a biomedical researcher myself, and know that everyone around me covets the elusive NIH grant, which is tough to get, but even tougher in these times, because the govt. is busy giving indirect bonuses to AIG executives.

As far as innovation is concerned, the right wing does all it can to scuttle that too. Opposition to stem cell research from religious nuts (whose opinion should not even be considered for a lack of a rational foundation) has made sure that countries like South Korea are ahead of the US in stem cell research, something that promises to help treat some very major problems. Incidentally, here is a very interesting and informative article about South Korea’s health care system (A National Health Insurance or NHI) and the problems it has.

So you know the spot we are standing on? It’s called Square One!

What is the correct option? Well, no one can ever know until the option succeeds or fails. We don’t possess Hermione’s time turner to reverse a bad decision either.

Another complaint that conservatives have with this system is that no one gets to choose their doctor, or the care that they get, simply because in this country, it is financially expedient (via tax breaks) for an employer to purchase health insurance in bulk for his many employees. Herein lies a part of the problem. There is a chance of collusion between the insurance company and the employer, which means that you might be getting sub-standard care so that your boss gets his meal ticket. The solution to that is simple. Remove this tax break. Let every person purchase his own health insurance, and the competition will take care of itself. Right?

Well, almost. The problem still stays, because there is another lobbying organization called the AMA (American Medical Association) which helps keep the salaries of medical practitioners high. It also keeps the tuition for medical degrees high (in turn). The promise of a higher salary lures more medical aspirants, and the demand for medical seats increases, thus increasing tuition. There is far too much pampering going on at the behest of the AMA. There are new occupations being created like nurse-practitioner, physician-assistant etc etc, which means more money. They all bill your insurance carrier, who then drops you because you are too much of a risk.

An altruistic thought also goes to those 50 million who are not covered at all in the US right now. An appalling figure for an industrialized nation.

I would say that let us all be selfish for once. For the most of us, we fall under the $250000 per annum salary limit that Obama was dealt so harshly for. So, the fact is that the insurance of the at-risk population under a single-payer option would be shouldered by the very rich. Screw them! No listen. One man, one vote is a clear mandate. The bum on the street has as much legal influence on the outcome of the election as Warren Buffet. That itself is a socialized system. Let us all act selfishly. Forget the idea that socialism would destroy the fabric of the US and all that blah…look at it simply. What if the government figured out a way to put the majority of the burder on the people who make more money than you can fathom? How is it your problem? Who cares what label they put on it? Socialism, universal health care, etc etc…how about we all just follow whatever gets the job done?

This is a very long rant from me. As I have said before, I am in the healthcare fraternity, but am not an economics expert. Better opinions are sought. Rebuttals and conflicting ideas are most welcome.

Pol khuli

The things we say whilst in a relationship but don’t really mean

  1. “Yes, you were the first.”
  2. “Yes, you are the last.”
  3. “Trust me, they’re big enough.” (Actually this does work both ways!) (I am getting a FRIENDS flashback.)
  4. “Of course I noticed the new earrings.”
  5. “She was just a crush.”
  6. “You are right. I didn’t know what I was thinking.”
  7. “I never understood (insert random topic) until I discussed it with you.”
  8. “Of course I can cancel beer with the guys.”
  9. “I was thinking about you.”
  10. “I think sports are pedestrian.”
  11. “I don’t read action novels, I’m more into non-fiction political journalistic writings.”
  12. “I think sex is overrated; we should get to know each other first.”
  13. “Sex is best when you’re in love.”
  14. “I was stuck in traffic.”
  15. “I was at (insert random friend)’s house.”
  16. “I hate shopping, but with you, somehow, it is fun.”
  17. “I don’t know her.”
  18. “Seriously, I mean it, I don’t know her.”
  19. “Your mom is wonderful.”
  20. “You’re right, your dad is the best man I know.”

You guys are welcome to add more.