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Raging Pencils by Mike "Lefty" Stanfill

I see our gravity is up

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start rant

Know Your Scumbag, Part 3

H. Edward HanwayThis is H. Edward Hanway, CEO of CIGNA. Over the past five years he's been paid over $121 million dollars. Forbes Magazine lists him as the 28th highest paid CEO in the U.S.

In a world of Exxon's and Monsanto's, #28 is an impressive barometer of greed.

Recently, former 20-year CIGNA employee Wendell Potter has been on Capitol Hill sharing his experiences about the company. To wit:

"They confuse their customers and dump the sick, all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors. They look carefully to see if a sick policyholder may have omitted a minor illness, a pre-existing condition, when applying for coverage, and then they use that as justification to cancel the policy, even if the enrollee has never missed a premium payment. Dumping a small number of enrollees can have a big effect on the bottom line."

Small businesses, in particular, he said, have had trouble maintaining their employee health insurance coverage.

"All it takes is one illness or accident among employees at a small business to prompt an insurance company to hike the next year's premiums so high that the employer has to cut benefits, shop for another carrier, or stop offering coverage altogether.

Potter also faulted insurance companies for being misleading both in advertising their policies to new customers and in communicating with existing policyholders.

More and more people, he said, are falling victim to "deceptive marketing practices" that encourage them to buy "what essentially is fake insurance," policies with high costs but surprisingly limited benefits.

Insurance companies continue to mislead consumers through "explanation of benefits" documents that note what payments the insurance company made and what's left for consumers to pay out of pocket, Potter said.

The documents, he said, are "notoriously incomprehensible."
"Insurers know that policyholders are so baffled by those notices they usually just ignore them or throw them away. And that's exactly the point," he said. "If they were more understandable, more consumers might realize that they are being ripped off."


pan dulceMy little local store that went belly-up in the midst of the recession has re-opened as a La Rancho Mercado. This is good news.

For one thing, my community is largely hispanic so a store that speaks their gustatory language makes sense.

For another, it offers a variety of foods I don't usually see, not the least of which are fresh-made flour tortillas. Velvety-soft and as close to manna from Heaven as I'll ever get.

Best of all is that the Wal-Mart across the street has suddenly lost half its business as El Rancho was PACKED with mamasitas the last time I stopped by.


This is called "poetic justice" as Wal-Mart is mostly responsible for the death of my little corner store. Consider this Death Watch Part One.

What I really wanted to talk about was El Rancho's vast selection of pan dulce. A zillion different, jewel-colored varieties with exotic names like bolillo, cuerno, picones and the lovely nino envuelto, all of which basically taste like newspaper.

Quick story: When I was in the fifth grade my class was given extra credit if we baked a cake. It was a "learn by doing" kind of assignment. I made mine according to the profferred recipe but somehow forgot to add the sugar. No one ate my cake, not even my best friend, not even me. If I'd known better I'd have said it was pan dulce.

This stuff has to get some sort of award for being the inverse square of confections, in that the prettier it looks the worse it tastes. And I get suckered in by it every single time as I always buy some when I find a new panaderia. I just naturally assume that the odds are increasingly in my favor that I'll eventually find one made by a cook who actually understands the mystery of sugar.

So far, I'm nada for infinito. But I'll keep trying.


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Raging Pencils salutes the Mystery Reader of
Lappeenranta, Finland
Whoever you are, thanks for reading my lamentable little 'toon.

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Today's Google Chow.

Psychiatrist's office. Both doctor and patient are floating through the air.
Doctor: "Well, I see our gravity is just about up."