"I looked into Blue View Vision and it is part of EyeMed. The reimbursement is so low for an eye exam that I cannot afford to see patients under the plan unless I become very aggressive and sell multiple eyeglasses and/or contact lenses and accessories privately to the patient in order to cover costs. For instance, our 30-40 min eye exam's fee is $152. VSP pays about $100 but EyeMed pays only $70 and I cannot charge the patient any more. So most of the docs who accept Eye Med will try to up sell and I don't want to do that."
With an office staff (assistant, accounting, frame fitters, etc), I can understand the reduced $70 allowance is too low -- and he would not be allowed to charge more to the patient, e.g. another $30 to make equivalent to VSP, even all his patient were willing (for the patient this would be OK, given reduced premium)
I presume IBM does care for one moment that many employees and retirees will be negatively affected, and either must switch optometrists, or drop coverage (what they want!). Why the change after all these years with VSP, which has provided excellent coverage at reasonable cost, unsubsidized premium. The new plan encouraged a reduction in quality services.
How about a Choice of VSP or BVV for plan year 2013, after the BVV transitional period runs its course.
"I presume IBM does NOT care for one moment that many employees and retirees will be negatively affected, and either must switch optometrists, or drop coverage (what they want!)."
Of course, no one expects IBM to bring back VSP. The company had always said the Dental and Vision plans are not subsidized, and that the premiums are average cost. So why would they bother to change plans, unless the new plan offers more hidden profit (i.e. no subsidy) for executive bonuses. To retain quality care, one must drop in 2013 like they want, so they can live in wealth in Armonk. Top optometrists will not subscribe to BVV.
Cons: -Unusually heavy process orientation, even for a large organization, leads to very low innovation. -Employees, even senior managers are so beat down by processes that there is little focus on results; mainly process. -Benefits are notably below average; company constantly seeking ways to indirectly reduce compensation by eliminating reimbursements, etc. -Laggard in terms of technology adoption and innovation. - you can quickly fall behind by staying at IBM. -Very high overhead of staff personnel/overhead cost; not likely to be sustainable in the long term.
Cons: - Company is cheap, feels like we are going out of business despite the surge in stock price. - Below average compensation. - Average benefits package. - Poor bonuses, even in sales. This is NOT the place to get rich. Bonuses in non-client facing jobs are virtually non-existent. - Not challenging, I can do my job in my sleep, and I've raised this to my management, nothing has changed. - Lack of career assistance/planning, you're really left on your own to figure out your path through the machine. Unsurprisingly, this makes vertical moves near impossible unless you're a superstar (which is odd given the mediocrity in first line management).
Advice to Senior Management: - Treat your employees the same way you treat customers. - Increase compensation to industry average at a minimum, I know swarms of EXCELLENT people who have left for a better package. - Make sure everyone is adding value, there's a lot of middle management that's not needed.
Throughout the growth of his family’s company and the industry, there was Mr. Marriott, as his devoutly loyal employees call him, espousing his family’s simple maxim that if you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your customers, and your customers will come back.
That philosophy still permeates the company — which is now worth nearly $10 billion and employs 129,000 people — after countless nights of putting heads in beds. Arne Sorenson, a trusted Marriott lieutenant for more than a decade, will become chief executive in March, the first non-Marriott to run the company. J.W. Marriott, known as Bill, will become executive chairman.
Editor's note: As an IBM consultant that had two months-long engagements at Marriott corporate headquarters in Bethesda, I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Marriott and his company. Marriott treats its people well, and with respect. The company reminded me so much of what IBM was like when I started with them in the 70's, but is sadly missing now.
Mr. Marriott did not hide from his employees. You would routinely see him walking the hallways, by himself (not escorted by a squad of security guards in dark suits.) He routinely ate in the normal company cafeteria (which was excellent!), carrying his own tray (he is nearly 80 years old), and chatting with the employees in line with him.
Despite his LDS religion (or perhaps because of it!) Mr. Marriott was quite progressive in terms of social issues. I delighted every morning as I walked into the facility to see moms and dads with their infants and toddlers accompanying them to work, to be dropped off at the on-site day care center. At the time of California's Proposition 8, Mr. Marriott wrote forcefully in his Web Blog about his opposition to the Proposition.
Because of my first-hand knowledge of the company, whenever I travel I try to stay at a Marriott property. And, I've found that his maxim "if you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your customers, and your customers will come back" to be so true.
Selected reader comments follow:
In a contemporary sense, I hear similar recollections from people who work for Trader Joes. The workers are treated with respect, The workers have retirement, medical and dental plans.
My point is that those who work in any capacity for certain employers, when there is a culture of respect and dignity and acknowledgment of the positive role of a worker of any status…well, there is a 110% performance, loyalty and happiness amongst the staff. There is no need for a labor union…and I am a labor union member…and there is a need for a union in the field I worked in. However, I would be the first to acknowledge that being fair, generous, respectful and dignified obviates the need for a contention and conflict. I would be the first to acknowledge that one's political affiliation has nothing to do with the above. And the first to say there are some employers who actually "get it." And the worker returns the generosity with loyalty and care for the customer.
Mr. Marriott was an employer of this ilk. Trader Joes is a company of this ilk. I do not have a vested interest in either firm. However, it's a really good lesson for this lifetime union member to learn…that decent people do exist and the protections offered by a union are job specific rather than a default position.
Of course when the opposite culture exists.,..and workers are locked indoors and made to work overtime without additional pay, have very few rights, not time off during the day…well, than a union would help. However, Marriott and Trader Joes are good examples of a culture that I admire.
Throughout the IBM Pension heist, Ellen E. Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter with the Wall Street Journal, exposed IBM's and other companies shenanigans that have cost retirees millions and millions of dollars, while enriching corporate executives.
Ms. Schultz has just published a book that every IBMer should read: Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit From the Nest Eggs of American Workers. Many IBMers are aware of the "cash balance heist" of 1999. However, IBM has been stealing money from the pension plan dating back to 1991, well before the Gerstner era.
A Gleam of Light through the Keyhole of Reality. By Free Speech. This book describes what to some may be all too apparent in American society. The concept of democracy faces a fundamental threat wherever a nation of people are governed by those who can be bought and sold, and matters of law fall at the feet of those who are ever drawn to the rewards offered in the service of elites. This is the nature of capitalism in the modern age. The concepts of the criminal conspiracy and syndicate have achieved new heights in an era in which they can be legitimized with sufficient influence over government, which is, given the example of governments in the U.S. in the era of prohibition in the United States, too old a lesson to believe that it has not already been learned.
The United States struggles to remain at the front of a global wave of development at the same time that it plunges headlong into rampant, corporate, criminal indulgence on a massive scale manipulated by mega-corporations that dwarf the governments of many states in terms of annual incomes and that have little reason to maintain any "national" identity. There are no "corporate citizens" in America, merely corporations that find it convenient to tap the resources of the United States and its population. After all, in a democracy, what is criminal except that which one group proclaims to be wrong in official terms, and others are able to right within the limits of their means? (Even then, contemplate how far one judge went, in the Microsoft anti-trust case, to undermine the decision in the case through a blatant, televised, public proclamation, and the real situation relative to the courts within the United States becomes clear.)
Where pensions and retirement funds can be translated, under the law, into large masses of cash that corporations can perceive as being, at least from their perspectives, disturbingly, both within but, somehow, beyond their grasp, in a nation controlled by a for-profit legal system in which ERISA laws do not permit the awarding of punitive damages to the aggrieved, the cash in untapped retirement funds will inevitably roll downhill into the pockets of those individuals who have established themselves as corporate powers and "fiduciaries", and in particular, into the pockets of those too incompetent to turn a profit in the current global market and disposed instead to raid their employees' retirements to prop up their credibility as parties worthy of the massive pay offered to America's dark CEO "princes" compared to their global counterparts. The nature of the evolution of a society under such dark "princes" wielding the influence of mega-corporations is irrevocably defined.
In the first installment we discussed the crisis of conscience that turned him from loyal, not to mention highly paid, company man to crusading reformer, watchdog and all-around thorn in the industry’s side. Having long thought he was on the side of the angels he increasingly came to realize that he was in fact playing for the other team, that the point of for-profit healthcare insurance is not paying for customers’ medical costs but avoiding doing so whenever possible. That for-profit health insurance corporations have a legal obligation to prioritize the enhancement of shareholder value over saving the lives of its customers. That he had blood on his hands. That he was an apologist for a system that denies medical care to more than 50 million Americans, and as a result more than 48,000 people die prematurely every year. Potter was tasked with writing an official-sounding report that minimized the problem and shifted all the blame on the uninsured. He helped craft reform-killing talking points for the healthcare lobby’s Congressional stooges to repeat into the cameras of Fox News and CNN. He was part of the effort to smear Michael Moore and discredit Sicko, his 2007 critique of the iniquities of the healthcare industrial complex, even though deep down he knew Moore was dead-on. The final straw was having to serve as company spokesperson through the resulting media firestorm when Cigna denied 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan a liver transplant and she died less than a week later. It is the campaign against Michael Moore and Sicko that we focus on in this installment. It begins with a cabal of health insurance operatives hiring a mole to sneak into the premier of Sicko at Cannes and take notes so that neutralizing talking points can be crafted. These talking points — which mostly rely on the usual lizard brain illuminators, namely fear (”Universal coverage is creeping Socialism!”) and loathing (”Taxpayers will have to pay out of pocket for illegal immigrants to get Cadillac health care!”) — are then passed along to various industry-owned Congressmen who dutifully parrot them in the echo chamber of 24-7 cable news and talk radio. It ends with Wendell Potter apologizing to Michael Moore live on national television.
TIME: What was the event that precipitated your activism? And what made it personal?
Arthur Chen: I'm part of that 99%, proud to say, so it's very relevant. And then in addition to that ... I've been seeing patients that are low-income impacted, many of them unemployed, and then struggling for survival. They're immigrants, and so I've seen the negative impacts in their lives from day to day. And I've seen uninsured patients who have to struggle with the recommendations that I make because of whether or not they can afford it. So it's been real to me on a personal level, and looking at the population as a whole, looking at the patients that I see, and just knowing intellectually that there's flaws in our current system. We're taking capitalism and its negative sides head on, which I think is essential to a democracy. And hopefully preserve the positive side of capitalism, because I'm not totally against capitalism; I just think at this point it's probably out of control.
I had another patient who presented to the emergency department with metastatic lung cancer. He had not been to the doctor in over 30 years because he couldn’t afford it. If he had sought treatment earlier he may have been cured.
Everywhere I look private health insurance companies are making our patients sicker. ...
I support the occupy movement because I feel that powerful and profiting insurance companies get in the way of my practice of medicine. Treatment should be the same high quality for everyone; instead, we have to consider what someone can afford.
It too often becomes treatment for the “haves” and neglect for the “have nots.” But the thing is, these days you may not know which group you fall into. Insurance plans are so spotty, with major gaps in coverage, that you don’t even realize it until you need medical attention, and you find your plan does not cover it.
I see it every day in the clinic – treatment is designed around what the insurance will pay (or not) instead of what is best for the patient first and foremost. It’s no fault of the medical team; we want to give the patients the best care, but the insurance industry has our hands tied. ...
The United States is the only industrialized country that does not provide health care to all its citizens regardless of employment status or economic class. Our profit-driven health care industry raises costs and inequality.
But our political system has been corrupted by corporate money and power, and the 1% have rejected evidence-based health policy that save lives and money, namely expanded and improved Medicare for all. We support Occupy Wall Street because economic and social inequality makes our patients sick.
The IOM proposal would base the required coverage on the benefits typical of plans currently offered by small businesses – enshrining these skimpy plans as the new standard. These bare-bones policies come with a long list of uncovered services and saddle enrollees with unaffordable co-payments and deductibles.
Already, millions of underinsured Americans forgo essential care: adults with heart attacks delay seeking emergency care; children forgo needed primary and specialty care; patients fail to fill prescriptions for lifesaving medications; and serious illness often leads to financial catastrophe.
The inadequate coverage the IOM recommends would shift costs from corporate and government payers onto families already burdened by illness. Yet this strategy will not lower costs. Delaying care often creates even higher costs. Steadily rising co-payments and deductibles over the past two decades have failed to stem skyrocketing medical inflation. And nations that assure comprehensive coverage – with out-of-pocket costs a fraction of those in the United States – have experienced both slower cost growth and greater health gains than our country. ...
The IOM committee was riddled with conflicts of interest, many members having amassed personal wealth through their involvement with health insurers and other for-profit health care firms. Its recommendations were lauded by insurance industry leaders who have sought to undermine real health reform at every turn. As the Lancet noted on its Dec. 5, 2009, cover: “Corporate influence renders the U.S. government incapable of making policy on the basis of evidence and the public interest.” Sadly, the committee’s damaging recommendations suggest that this corporate bug has also infected the IOM.
That subsidy wasn't guaranteed to keep pace with the rate of health-care inflation, leaving beneficiaries potentially to face higher out-of-pocket costs.
"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.
The decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission giving “artificial entities” the same rights of “free speech” as living, breathing human beings will likely prove as infamous as the Dred Scott ruling of 1857 that opened the unsettled territories of the United States to slavery whether future inhabitants wanted it or not. It took a civil war and another hundred years of enforced segregation and deprivation before the effects of that ruling were finally exorcised from our laws. God spare us civil strife over the pernicious consequences of Citizens United, but unless citizens stand their ground, America will divide even more swiftly into winners and losers with little pity for the latter. Citizens United is but the latest battle in the class war waged for thirty years from the top down by the corporate and political right. Instead of creating a fair and level playing field for all, government would become the agent of the powerful and privileged. Public institutions, laws, and regulations, as well as the ideas, norms, and beliefs that aimed to protect the common good and helped create America’s iconic middle class, would become increasingly vulnerable. The Nobel Laureate economist Robert Solow succinctly summed up the results: “The redistribution of wealth in favor of the wealthy and of power in favor of the powerful.” In the wake of Citizens United, popular resistance is all that can prevent the richest economic interests in the country from buying the democratic process lock, stock, and barrel.
America has a long record of conflict with corporations. Wealth acquired under capitalism is in and of itself no enemy to democracy, but wealth armed with political power — power to choke off opportunities for others to rise, power to subvert public purposes and deny public needs — is a proven danger to the “general welfare” proclaimed in the Preamble to the Constitution as one of the justifications for America’s existence. ...
To find out why, read on, and as you read, keep in mind the words of Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, who a century ago stood up to the mighty combines of wealth and power that were buying up our government and called on Americans of all persuasions to join him in opposing the “naked robbery” of the public’s trust:
It is not a partisan issue; it is more than a political issue; it is a great moral issue. If we condone political theft, if we do not resent the kinds of wrong and injustice that injuriously affect the whole nation, not merely our democratic form of government but our civilization itself cannot endure.
America's highest paid executive took home more than $145.2m, and as stock prices recovered across the board, the median value of bosses' profits on stock options rose 70% in 2010, from $950,400 to $1.3m. The news comes against the backdrop of an Occupy Wall Street movement that has focused Washington's attention on the pay packages of America's highest paid. ...
GMI released a preliminary report on 2010 CEO pay earlier this year, before all the data was available. Paul Hodgson, a senior research associate at GMI, said that report had shown a significant bounce but he had expected a wider sample to dampen the effect. "Wages for everybody else have either been in decline or stagnated in this period, and that's for those who are in work," said Hodgson. "I had a feeling that we would see some significant increases this year. But 30-40% was something of a surprise." Bosses won in every area, with dramatic increases in pensions, payoffs and perks – as well as salary. ...
The situation is most prevalent in North America, where 57 per cent of the investors said they had capital locked in an underperforming fund, according to the Global Private Equity Barometer, due to be published on Monday by Coller Capital. ...
Private equity funds are typically structured with a 1.5 to 2 per cent management fee and “carried interest” that pays managers a 20 per cent share of the profits. There is usually an 8 per cent profit threshold that managers have to achieve before they get paid a performance bonus. ...
If a fund is lossmaking and managers have no realistic chance of achieving the hurdle rate, they stand to gain from holding on to investments as long as possible as the management fee is based on the size of the portfolio. This is bad for investors whose returns are diluted by the longer holding periods as they have to pay management fees over a longer period of time, Mr Coller said.
Selected reader comments follow:
Given that the average PE target company is turned into a sad shadow of a leveraged shell company with all cash stripped out, demoralised employees who have probably been tricked out of their pensions (if not laid off) along with at least five years of underinvestment in capital or research disguised as "improved management" and "cost focus" the companies are pretty much un-saleable unless it is to dumb money floating in a sea of liquidity.
Well the dumb money ran out in 2008 after paying for traders bonuses over the previous decade or so. So now all the greedy investors have to look forward to is paying more management fees for a few years while everyone pretends things are fine, until the debts have to be rolled over or the companies trashed by the PE merchants finally collapse.
Yet in the intervening three years, few on Wall Street have been held personally accountable for the financial crisis, and no new meaningful legislation has been passed, points often made by the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement. ...
Yet like Ms Ambrosino, Mr Simon has little confidence in Wall Street in the wake of Madoff. “There was all this talk about how law enforcement dropped the ball, and three years later it’s still business as usual,” says Mr Simon. “The more powerful you are on Wall Street, the less likely you’re going to be scrutinised. That’s the way Madoff was able to get away with it for so long.”
No longer. Today, somewhat remarkably, US joblessness is higher than in much of Europe. And the US consumer is mired in high personal debt. As the jobs crisis deepens, so too does US political polarisation. Allegations of “class warfare” are a staple of Washington debate. In contrast to the 1960s, dominated by protests for peace and civil rights, today’s battles are economic. Yet there are few signs that either policymakers or economists are closer to finding answers. ...
In short, the middle-skilled jobs that once formed the ballast of the world’s wealthiest middle class are disappearing. They are being supplanted by relatively low-skilled (and low-paid) jobs that cannot be replaced either by new technology or by offshoring – such as home nursing and landscape gardening. Jobs are also being created for the highly skilled, notably in science, engineering and management.
For the remainder of the workforce, including college graduates, it is both increasingly hard to find a secure job and tougher for those who do find jobs to be paid in line with inflation. Most people know that median US income has declined sharply since the late 1990s. Fewer are aware that real incomes also fell sharply in the same period for those with degrees. Only those with postgraduate qualifications, particularly PhDs, saw net gains (for some spectacular). ...
“I know companies that employ senior engineers whose only job is to find ways to reduce the headcount,” says Carl Camden, chief executive of Kelly Services, a booming staffing agency based in Michigan. “The name of the game everywhere is to reduce permanent headcount and we are still only at the early stages of this trend.”
“Like a lot of Americans, I’m pretty ticked off. It’s not that there are rich people, it’s that the people with a lot of money over the past few decades have rigged the system so that there’s not a fair chance for anyone any more,” he said at the protests last week.
“We are the 99%”, the slogan of Occupy Wall Street, is a reference to the rising wealth of the top 1 per cent of US income distribution. But an equally valid slogan might be: “We get 58%”.
That figure is the share of US national income that goes to workers as wages rather than to investors as profits and interest. It has fallen to its lowest level since records began after the second world war and is part of the reason why incomes at the top – which tend to be earned from capital – have risen so much. If wages were at their postwar average share of 63 per cent, workers would earn an extra $740bn this year, about $5,000 per worker, according to FT calculations. ...
The decline in the labour share, along with a shift of labour income towards higher earners, may be an important part of why the US economic recovery is so sluggish. Workers on lower wages consume much of their income, while higher wage earners and those with capital income are more likely to save. That will not affect total demand if savers lend to those who want to consume or invest in buildings and start-ups – but investment has been slow to recover in the wake of the recession. ...
The strange behaviour of profits after this recession needs further explanation and Mr Smithers has an innovative idea. “It seems to me that what we’ve seen has been a marked change in corporate behaviour,” he says. “They have not responded by cutting prices and competing like fury, they’ve responded by cutting staff.”
He suggests that the change is linked to the rise of bonus culture and share options for business executives. The average chief executive of an S&P500 company is only in the job for five or six years and their pay is often closely linked to the share price of their corporation or to its returns on equity.
That creates strong incentives to keep profits high in the short term, and Mr Smithers suggests that those incentives have changed how management responds to a recession. Instead of hoarding labour and cutting prices to grab market share, companies are sacking workers, holding prices and choosing to buy back their own equity rather than make new investments.
Selected reader comments follow:
Outlays on public services and investments other than healthcare and pensions have been badly squeezed. Non-security discretionary programmes, including education, energy, environment, roads, training, science and much more, have been hit hard. In the late 1970s, 5-6 per cent of national income was directed to these areas. Reagan slashed that to 2-3 per cent. Spending has remained at that lower level since, apart from a short-lived blip caused by the Obama stimulus.
America is unilaterally ceding its global leadership in education, science and infrastructure. Much of today’s young workforce lacks the education and skills to sustain middle-class living standards, and unemployment rates are high and stuck as a result. Yet in 2008, as a candidate, Barack Obama said he too would aim for the same tax-GDP ratio as during the Reagan years! Mr Obama’s promise of continued low taxation may have helped him to electoral victory, but it also planted the seeds of his policy failures.
Mr Obama speaks of investing in education, infrastructure and technology to restore competitiveness and jobs, but lacks the financial room to manoeuvre. The result is an utterly dispiriting contradiction between his soaring rhetoric about the role of government and the grinding cuts he has agreed with Congress. His entire economic programme rests on a fiscal fallacy.
According to July’s debt agreement between Congress and the White House, non-security discretionary programmes will be further squeezed to below 2 per cent of GDP by the end of the decade. In short, other than war and a few transfer programmes, government programmes are being asphyxiated. Republicans claim that low taxes and small government have spared it from the European disease. That is utterly false. The US is vastly outperformed by northern Europe’s high-tax-and-spend states.
These countries tax heavily but also spend efficiently. They buy superb public health, quality childcare, proficient public education, quality infrastructure, and remarkable social equality. The results are lower unemployment rates, smaller budget deficits, much lower poverty and smaller trade deficits than in the US. These countries also enjoy higher social mobility, life expectancy and life satisfaction than the US.
Nor have they suffered slower growth in per capita incomes. From 1980 to 2009, US per capita income grew by an average of 1.7 per cent. Northern Europe averaged about the same. In the US, most gains accrued to the top of the income distribution. Median male earnings in the US have not risen since 1973.
Mr. Will defended Mr. Romney, pointing out that companies like Bain are essential for wealth creation, which “often involves taking over badly run companies, shedding dead weight and thereby liberating remaining elements that add value.” All well and good, I suppose, if it weren’t for the fact that Republicans proudly (and tediously) portray themselves as “job creators.” Wealth creators, perhaps, but job creators, not so much.
After all, the “dead weight” that Mr. Will referred to are real people who once held jobs now lost in the name of “creative destruction.” And while many people would cheer the creation of wealth, perhaps even at the expense of all that “dead weight,” should we not ask ourselves if it’s such a good thing for society to find so much of the resultant wealth concentrated in the hands of the top 1 percent (people such as Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Romney) rather than blindly accept the results as a given?
Maybe the unfettered capitalism so admired by Mr. Will and the “job creators” in the GOP ought to be tempered with a little judgment and common sense.
This site is designed to allow IBM Employees to communicate and share methods of protecting their rights through the establishment of an IBM Employees Labor Union. Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act states it is a violation for Employers to spy on union gatherings, or pretend to spy. For the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act, notice is given that this site and all of its content, messages, communications, or other content is considered to be a union gathering.