Thursday, February 24, 2011

Recycling: It's easy when it's convenient

Mary and I have been segregating our paper/cardboard, glass/cans/plastic, and 5-cent deposit bottles from the rest of our trash for quite awhile now.

At first, we had bins setup in the garage, but that was impractical. No one is going to walk out to the garage to toss out an empty can of corn. If you want people to do something, it needs to be convenient, so we purchased three bins that go with our kitchen d├ęcor which sit within two steps of the trash compactor.


Any type of container would work, but Mary found these bins with automatic lids. They’re cool, but now I’m having heartburn over the fact that we’ll be disposing spent batteries every few months. Probably the bins that have a foot pedal are a better choice, but any cheap trash can will work—it’s the fact that they’re within reach that matters.



Since implementing the in-kitchen bins, we have reduced our garbage to one bag per week. When I go to the transfer station, I generally have one bag of glass, cans and plastic, two bags of paper, and one bag of 5-cent bottles that I leave in the Little League shed. Before we were separating our trash, I was tossing four bags a week into the trash trailer.

Give it a shot. It saves the town money, which will save you money in the long run. It also feels good to know that you’re playing a part in protecting our environment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Can we afford to spray?

The Cape & Islands delegation of state representatives and senators are going to meet soon to continue the discussion about NSTAR’s spraying of herbicides under their power lines.

NSTAR claims that its plan is responsible and others say that the larger issue lies with homeowners’ use of glyphosates (like Round-Up) and widespread use of fertilizers that pollute fresh and saltwater resources.

I’m not so sure that pointing out other risky behaviors exonerates the whole.

We have a single lens aquifer on Cape Cod. We got it wrong years ago when routine spilling of fuels and mishandling of explosives resulted in a pollution disaster under the Massachusetts Military Reservation.

Let’s not get it wrong again.

Vote your opinion in my latest poll at the top right corner of this page.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Frank Pannorfi, Sandwich selectman candidate

My name is Frank Pannorfi and I am a candidate for selectman in the Town of Sandwich. As a means of communicating with the citizens of Sandwich, to hear and discuss your issues, as well as know my positions, I welcome meeting with any group in Sandwich, or speaking to individuals.

I can be contacted at: memoryfp@comcast.net, or 508 888-8517.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Frank Pannorfi

Space available for local candidates

I will make this blog available to candidates in local races (Barnstable, Bourne, Mashpee and Sandwich) to post their contact information and opinion pieces about issues relevant to the election.

To my Valentine

I could not have accomplished many things in my life without your steadfast support, patience and energy.

You are my sounding board, bringing me back to reality when my imagination carries me away. And, at the same time, you are imaginative when my ideas lack spark and need a clever twist to make them take off.

We work together all day at our CPA practice and then look forward to each other’s company at quitting time.

You never complained when I refused to ask for directions. You bought me a cell phone with a built-in GPS navigator.

You watch after all of the small details that make an event great instead of just okay. We both hate mediocre.

When we agree to go after something, you are there 100%, staying focused while I oscillate between enthusiasm and apprehension.

It is our collective experience that makes our relationship so strong.

You are my wife.

You are my best friend.

You are my lover.

You are my Valentine.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Should we legalize fireworks in Massachusetts?

Rich Bastien, state representative from Gardner, has introduced a bill to legalize the sale and use of fireworks in Massachusetts. Do you support this change? Vote in the poll (top right) and add your comment below.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Driving for charity: January 2011 - Audible Local Ledger

I made a campaign promise, at the urging of Matt Pitta, WXTK Radio news director, to pass through my state representative travel per diem to a local charity each month. Unlike most of us who do not get paid to commute, legislators receive payments based on the distance they must drive to the Statehouse. My per diem is $45. Click here to see Who gets paid to drive to work?

January’s per diem payment of $315 represents seven trips to the Statehouse and I am happy to donate that amount to the Audible Local Ledger in Mashpee. This organization provides reading services to the visually impaired. Sherry Bergeron, executive director, works tirelessly for the charity, coordinating readers, fundraising, and distributing special radio equipment to listeners throughout Cape Cod and the south coast.

To find out more about the Audible Local Ledger and to make a contribution, please visit http://www.audiblelocalledger.org or call Sherry at (508) 539-2030.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

HELP Act

I made the case in an earlier piece that health care costs obey the fundamental economic law of supply and demand. See http://randyhuntcpa.blogspot.com/2010/12/you-cant-fool-human-nature.html.

One of the cost drivers in Massachusetts is the mandate to not just purchase insurance, but to purchase a “blue ribbon” policy. The standard for a qualifying plan is spelled out in the Minimum Creditable Coverage requirement. If the health insurance plan you purchase (or perhaps “rent” might be a better term) falls short of the MCC definition, you will be subjected to a $1,212 fine in 2011.

Here are the minimum requirements to meet the MCC standard (from http://mahealthconnector.org/):

  • Ambulatory patient services, including outpatient day surgery and related anesthesia
  • Diagnostic imaging and screening procedures, including x-rays
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization, including at a minimum, inpatient acute care services which are generally provided by an acute care hospital for covered benefits in accordance with the member's subscriber certificate or plan description
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Medical/surgical care, including preventative and primary care
  • Mental health and substance abuse services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Radiation therapy and chemotherapy
  • Doctor visits for preventive care, without a deductible
  • A cap on annual deductibles of $2,000 for an individual and $4,000 for a family for services received in-network
  • For plans with up-front deductibles or co-insurance on core services, an annual maximum on out-of-pocket spending of no more than $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a family for services received in-network
  • No caps on total benefits for a particular illness or for a single year
  • No policy that covers only fixed dollar amount per day or stay in the hospital, with the patient responsible for all other charges
  • For policies that have a separate prescription drug deductible, it cannot exceed $250 for an individual or $500 for a family for services received in-network
  • No fixed-dollar cap on prescription drug benefits
  • Core medical services and a broad range of medical services for any dependents, if dependents are covered

Imagine the cost of automobiles if our state government enacted a one-size-fits-all set of standards for the Minimum Creditable Car.

The bottom line is that we worked on the coverage side of this health insurance equation and did little to work on the expense side. We’re flailing around in the middle of a swarm of “cost” hornets trying to figure out how to get our runaway premiums back under control.

What the people need is a little breathing room while the brain trust in the Statehouse sorts out this mess. The Healthcare Expense Lowering Plan (HELP) does exactly that. Without removing the mandate to purchase health insurance, it provides immediate relief by suspending MCC until January 1, 2014, the day most of the national health insurance reform laws kick in.

How would it help?

Take the example of a married couple with no kids; mid-30s; in good health. They can purchase a policy today that provides for catastrophic coverage for $350/month. Though it doesn’t provide coverage for maternity, mental health issues, and prescription drugs, they don’t need these coverages. They can pay cash for broken bones and office visits for strep throat, but they want to know that they’ll be covered if one of them contracts cancer.

In Massachusetts, they will pay a $2,424 penalty on their 2011 tax return ($1,212 each). Their other option is to purchase a plan through the Connector for $1,000/month, the cheapest they were able to find for a high deductable plan ($2,000 out-of-pocket).

They choose to pay $4,200/year for their catastrophic coverage plan plus the penalty, a total of $6,624, rather than $12,000 for the MCC-qualified plan, a savings of over $5,000.

With the HELP Act in place, they would save the additional $2,424 while still retaining coverage that they can afford and complying with the individual mandate.

For those people who are currently without health insurance coverage—and I submit to you that those numbers have increased significantly during this recession; we just don’t know it yet—there would be affordable policies available that would encourage more people to comply with the health coverage mandate.

Do the numbers. $4,200/year to have a plan versus a penalty of $2,424 for not having a plan. That’s a difference of $1,776 (almost seems patriotic, doesn’t it?), or $148/month. That’s doable for anyone who earns too much to qualify for subsidized health insurance.

The bigger picture

I wrote the HELP Act to provide immediate relief for people who are being buried by their health insurance premiums and to give us time to look at the bigger picture. Payment reform (which will become a buzz phrase soon) might be the right way to go, but the proponents of this new paradigm plan to run controlled pilot studies to ensure that the results meet their expectations before rolling out a full program. That makes sense, but it also takes time. The HELP Act will tide us over until the big picture solutions are ready for prime time.

What you can do

If you believe we need a hiatus from ever-increasing insurance premiums, let your state legislator know about the HELP Act. It is House Docket number HD02965.