Archive for February, 2013

health Insurance options

Everyday on the news we are reminded that the Canadian health care system is in a state of crisis.  Those who have family or friends on long-term care waiting lists or in a facility already,know that the situation is becoming desperate.  The shortage of long-term care beds is so severe hospital beds, already in short supply, are occupied by those awaiting transfers to long term care facilities. Often that wait can last years.  Even 20 years ago when my great grandfather waited for placement in suitable facility given he had Alzheimer’s, the wait was over a year.  That was 30 years ago, today the situation is far far worst!

With growing pressure from an ageing population, the system simply cannot handle the increasing burden. Consider this:

  • In 1900, 7% of all adults were over age 65
  • Currently, 17% are over age 65
  • By 2020, over 23% will be over 65
  • The number of Canadians aged 80 and over will double in the next 20 years – and triple in the next 40 years
  • The number of seniors in Canada has increased by one million in the last decade
  • By the year 2036, it is expected that there will be between 4.6 million and 5.1 million seniors with disabilities
  • By 2020, there will be as many seniors as children!

Currently we are spending $4.1 billion each year on Alzheimer’s and dementia. In 20 years, the number of seniors afflicted with some form of dementia will more than double, to 750,000.  With an ageing population comes the increasing costs.

Our medical system is already unable to deal with this. Even in general, the system is overburdened.  Have you had wait in an Emergency Room lately?  How about wait for an appointment with a specialist?  Or how about the dreaded surgical wait list?  Do to the increased demand and pressures there has been a shift towards “less costly” community-based care and a dramatically increase in the demand for home care.  At the same time the average number of home care hours you might have received a few years ago has dropped from over 20 hours per week to just 2-4 hours per week!

Again, those of us who have elderly parents and friends might be forgiven for feeling somewhat cynical about the current debate surrounding two-tier medical services. When it comes to long- term care for our loved ones, it is readily apparent that a two-tier system is already well entrenched. In short, the services are available, if you can write the cheque.

So…what are the chances that you will need long term care? It’s true, we are living longer – in fact, in 1996, life expectancy at age 65 was 18.4 years, 5 more than in 1941. But the other side of the coin is that of those 18 years, on average, 9 are relatively healthy, and the other years include 3 years each of slight, moderate, and severe disability. In fact, it is estimated that at least 40% of all people over 65 will need some form of long-term health care services.

Traditionally, we have counted on the government to provide for our medical needs, but when it comes to long-term care, you can expect the following from our medical system:

  • Long waits, up to three or four years just to get into a facility,
  • Outdated and overcrowded facilities,
  • An annual financial assessment, to determine the level of subsidy received,
  • No choice of location, both in terms of which facility and which community! (You could end up in a town awy from friends and family)
  • Reduced services.

The combination of high cost for private home care or facility care and public care or financial assistants being based on an analysis of your financial means… You could find your retirement savings liquidated in a few short years.  Consider the following:

  • Current home care costs about $30 per hour, and up to $50 per hour for some services
  • Even a government facility will cost you from $750 to $1500 per month, in addition to the subsidy
  • Private facilities range from $2500 to $7000+ per month! And don’t forget, this is the cost per person, not per couple.

There is an option to help protect your choices and your finances.  Long-term care insurance covers virtually all of the expenses of long-term care, either in your own home or in a facility, for periods ranging from a few years to lifetime coverage.

Those of us involved in financial planning, long-term care insurance may be the most important financial tools available to Canadians.   Long term care insurance may be the only option to protection us from the loss of our lifestyle, our independence, and our control over our health and finances.

As I once heard it so eloquently put , “Most people want to choose where they go, instead of having to go where they are taken…”

How do you determine the amount long term care insurance you need, given the future is so unpredictable?  Simply buy as much as you can afford.  The demand for and costs of are going to increase and increase a lot!

300 million dollars out of thin air: Bitcoin turns four and approaches $30 value.

Money is a delusion – but a delusion that works as long as it’s shared. The value of a U.S. dollar was once tied to a government guarantee that you could, at any time, exchange it for a quantity of precious metal – but since America officially abandoned the gold standard in 1971, its value is now more or less rooted in its ubiquity. If large swathes of people decided they would no longer accept it, it would suddenly be worth a lot less.

The Bitcoin - global anarchist financial revolution, giant scam, great investment or some ...

Government currencies like the American dollar are also a bit odd, in that a government can decide to print more money at any time to serve its own purposes. This is very handy for the government, but through inflation it causes each individual dollar to be worth a bit less each time.

It’s a problem that will persist with pretty much any currency that’s managed by one central organization. And distrust of these organizations is one of the strongest driving forces behind alternative currencies like Bitcoin. The idea is to create an entirely new currency that’s widely accepted, fairly stable, and more or less inflation-proof because the money supply can’t be increased at the whim of some central figure.

So how do you create a new currency?

The answer, more or less, seems to be that you simply build it, convince people it’s worth something, and give them an incentive to get on board.

Bitcoin was first proposed in 2008 – a fortunate time, since faith in the global banking hegemony and government control of money was crashing as the global financial crisis kicked in.

It was designed by “Satoshi Nakamoto” – a pseudonym, possibly for a group of anonymous designers who have never revealed themselves. Bitcoin’s key selling points from day one were solid, trustworthy and transparent technology, a controlled money supply and a built-in early adopter bonus that made them very cheap to produce while the currency got off the ground.

The third point is probably the most important; Bitcoins are produced by getting a computer to crunch complex algorithms. Once a certain amount of work is done, you create a brand new bitcoin. That amount of work was very quick and easy early in the piece, so early adopters were able to churn out large numbers of coins. But the algorithms are designed to become progressively more difficult over time, until a point some time around 2040 when the supply will be capped forever at around 21 million bitcoins.

Effectively, if you got in early, you could use your personal computer to churn out thousands of bitcoins – giving early adopters a heavy incentive to find things to do with them. But now, the Bitcoin mining process is already so difficult that you need a specialized rig bristling with dozens of graphics cards to make any decent progress.

This gradual restriction of supply is what Bitcoin advocates maintain makes the currency inflation-proof. There’s no such thing as “quantitative easing” in the Bitcoin world. In fact, as the money supply crawls to a stop, the currency should deflate over time, making each bitcoin increase in value.

Of course, it also makes the Bitcoin system look a lot like a pump and dump scam as well – early adopters mined huge amounts of bitcoins early on for very little effort, and stood to gain huge amounts of cold, hard, non-virtual cash if they could convince other people the bitcoin was worth something. But let’s backtrack a little before we explore that.

How bitcoins work

The most important feature of a digital unit of currency is that ownership can be authenticated, and the money can’t be spent twice. You can ensure this by keeping a central ledger somewhere of who owns exactly which bitcoins – but the genius of the Bitcoin system is that this ledger is completely decentralized and run as a peer-to-peer system like the BitTorrent network.

When you make a transaction, the Bitcoin network sends out a notice and a confirmation process takes place. In this confirmation process, the transaction history of the particular bitcoin being moved is checked against the records of a number of different nodes in the system. Only when several nodes “agree” that the bitcoin is authentic does the actual transfer occur.

A bitcoin itself is just a string of letters and numbers – the system would be vulnerable to all sorts of hacks if it wasn’t for this peer-to-peer tracking system. And although the bitcoin’s entire transaction history is sent around the network for checking, it’s only a series of bitcoin wallet addresses that are used, rather than account names – making it virtually impossible to work out exactly who owned the coin in the real world.

This also makes it virtually impossible to prove you owned a bitcoin if you misplace its alphanumeric code. If you delete your wallet file or forget your passwords, your money is gone forever.

Getting money in and out of the Bitcoin system

First off, you need a wallet. You can either download the original Bitcoin client and run it on your own computer, or you can trust a third party online service like MyWallet to take care of it for you.

From there, there’s a number of ways to buy bitcoins with regular cash. You can strike a deal directly with another bitcoin owner over at Bitcoin OTC, use a big-time currency exchange like Mt.Gox or any number of others.

If you want to keep your identity as far away from the transaction as possible, you can use a cash deposit service like bitinstant – you notify the service that you want to buy X dollars worth of bitcoins, they give you some deposit details, and you simply walk into a bank (or another deposit location like a 7-11 or Walmart store) and drop off the cash with a given account and reference number. Once the transaction is verified, the bitcoins are transferred to your ownership. The process takes less than an hour and costs you a four percent fee.

To get money out of the system, you’ve got to effectively sell your bitcoins. The easiest method is probably to register with a big exchange, sell your coins and have them transfer the money to your local bank account.

There’s other services that will pay you back through Paypal, vouchers and all sorts of other options – and if you want to keep things totally anonymous, you can always strike a deal directly with somebody who wants to buy the bitcoins, and dodge the transaction fee in the process.

What’s a bitcoin worth?

Graph showing the value of 1 Bitcoin from 2009-2013. Created at bitcoincharts.com.

As I write this, close to US$30. Here’s a live update. The currency is still pretty volatile, its value changes constantly. If you’d bought yourself a bitcoin in December last year, you’d have doubled your money in the last 50 days.

That’s nothing compared to the gains the early adopters have made, though – bitcoins were worth literally nothing back when the system went online in January 2009. They were trading for less than US$0.10 back in September 2010, and only broke the US$1 mark in February 2011. They spiked up to US$27 in May 2011, then crashed down to US$3.50 within a couple of months when Mt.Gox and MyBitcoin were hacked, resulting in a leaking of user information and some straight-up bitcoin theft.

Right now, it’s riding higher than it ever has and spiking upwards like crazy, and there’s every chance you can still make money as a speculator – as well as every chance that it’ll crash again before 2014.

Read more…300 million dollars out of thin air: Bitcoin turns four and approaches $30 value.

Volunteers needed to go bald

The home show head shave may be cancelled if participants don’t sign up

Read more: http://www.mrtimes.com/health/Volunteers+needed+bald/7951958/story.html#ixzz2KoJQxPg4

Allen LaRose is looking for a few or more brave volunteers willing to lose their locks at this spring’s home show in Maple Ridge.

Allen LaRose of Manion & Associates held up a picture with inspirational words from Ghandi, and a photo of himself from a past head shave for cancer.

The financial advisor/branch manager at Manion & Associates is hoping several helpers will sign up to have their heads shaved at the Ridge Meadows Home Show, held this year from May 3 to 5 at Albion Fairgrounds.

Each year at the home show, Manion & Associates hosts the Headshave for Cancer in support of the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation and Ridge Meadows Hospice Society.

LaRose said the fundraiser was organized by local firefighters, starting in 2001.

The volunteer group was made up mostly of emergency services personnel and RCMP members from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

LaRose originally got involved as a participant nearly a decade ago and since 2008, Manion & Associates has been the chief organizer, renting booth space and recruiting volunteer barbers.

In the early 2000s, most of the participants raised pledges, and those who didn’t simply donated money. The combined dollar totals was usually “a respectable amount,” LaRose said.

But support has dwindled in recent years.

“In the years that we haven’t had a larger group committing and taking part, the amount of dollars raised has been significantly smaller,” LaRose said.

Manion & Associates absorbs the cost of the booth rental and marketing the event, which includes producing posters and brochures. This ensures 100 per cent of the money raised go to the causes.

LaRose sacrifices roughly 150 hours of his own time to promote and organize the head shave, each year.

But in tougher economic times, LaRose is contemplating cancelling this year’s fundraiser.

“It’s getting to the point where we have to make a call: is it worth the effort and cost to put it on, if we’re not going to have the commitment of participants?” Larose said. “If I’m going to cut a cheque to run a head shave, I’m wondering, well, am I better off just donating the money directly to the charities.”

The crucial element moving forward is participants. “[These are] people who are willing to have their heads

shaved and go out and raise money, raise pledges,” LaRose said. “I know from experience it doesn’t take much to raise a couple hundred dollars in pledges per person.”

To get involved, call LaRose at 604-463-6060 or email him at allen@ manion.ca.

Originally, funds raised from the head shave went to the local hospital’s oncology department.

“But the hospital foundation came to us when we first took [the head shave] on and pointed out that cancer patients get treated by many parts of the hospital and not just the one department,” LaRose explained.

And, at one time, the head shave solely benefited the hospital foundation.

Then it became apparent to LaRose, who was on the hospice society board, that more than 80 per cent per cent of the people the hospice works with are cancer patients and their families.

Whether the head shave goes ahead or not, LaRose plans on contributing to causes that have had a direct effect on his life.

In September 2002, his mom Dee was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As her condition worsened, Dee was admitted to Surrey Memorial Hospital, due to a lack of space in the palliative care unit at Ridge Meadows Hospital.

This was not ideal for Dee, according to her son, who said the best place for her would have been the McKenney Creek Hospice Facility, which did not exist at the time.

Dee died April 8, 2003.

After her death, because of the money raised from the head shave, Ridge Meadows Hospital acquired the equipment that would have treated Dee locally, instead of in Surrey.

The local hospital now has the equipment that would have allowed Dee to receive treatment in her own home.

tlandreville@mrtimes.com

© Copyright (c) Maple Ridge Times

Read more: http://www.mrtimes.com/health/Volunteers+needed+bald/7951958/story.html#ixzz2KoJjml8e