Health Insurance Plan Evaluation

Health insurance plans have some well known attributes such as deductible, copay, maximum out of pocket, and preferred or required healthcare providers. These things are usually nicely summarized and explained in the plan information and quotes.

But there is another factor which affects the actual cost of any given health service. This factor is the negotiated rate that the insurance company has with the provider. What happens is, insurance companies go to providers and say something like, “this CT scan costs too much, we only want our plan holders to pay this much, and if you make us pay more, we won’t cover it, and our large group of plan holders won’t buy your service.” And then a price is negotiated. So whenever you have a copay or a deductible, a usually hidden part of the calculation of your actual out of pocket expenses are these negotiated rates for health services/prescriptions.

One of the key factors in how low these negotiated rates are, is how many people are in a given health plan, which gives the insurance company more leverage during negotiations. Because of this, I think that insurance companies should provide estimated plan holder numbers and a list of negotiated rates for common services/prescriptions as a part of any insurance quote along with the traditional copay, deductible, out of pocket maximum, and preferred/required provider information.

My Novel Process

My novel manufacturing process is beginning to show more signs of benefit again. We had expanded it and modified it slightly and had difficulty reproducing the full benefits of the initial results, and in the process of that I’ve expanded my own knowledge of the greater system, developing an electrochemical model that I think will inform all of my decisions to come.

But now, once again, there are good and hopeful signs, and my process returns to favor in my eyes, though… there is a tinker or two I think’ll help, and if not the process, the attempts will surely help my knowledge.

The LM3524D

The Texas Instruments LM3524D is a beautiful tool that I’ve been looking for for some time now. I saw a few designs based on them in school but I couldn’t recall the number or the right name when I got back into electronics. I’d search for “voltage dependent PWM generator” and the like, but I couldn’t find the right chip.

That right chip is the LM3524D. A beautiful design incorporating just about all of the sub circuits one needs to produce a controlled PWM signal. Its got an astable oscillator to serve as the signal source, tunable with your choice of timing resistor and capacitor. This replaces a 555. Its got two separate voltage differential feedback amplifiers. One is set to operate in mV range for use with current sense resistors, and this one overrides the other which is typicaly used to set a target output voltage. Finally, it permits override of both feedback controls with a single pin voltage analog input that can be used to directly set the PWM duty cycle which is linear with respect to the applied voltage. These features replace a slew of opamps and logic circuits.

The output of the circuit isn’t a regular PWM wave, interestingly enough. Rather, the internal PWM is fed into the base of a BJT, and the inverse of the PWM is fed into the base of a second BJT. This permits a certain level of direct low power usage, and more importantly permits darlington pairing with higher power BJTs, and of course, the transistors can be used to reproduce a PWM voltage signal for distribution to FET gates.

Python would be better with brackets

{Python} There. I fixed it.

But really I’m talking about the scripting language. Python requires code lines to be separated onto new lines and then groups code lines based on a set of tabs or spaces before the line.

Better programming languages use semicolons to separate the code lines and brackets to group code. This is better because code is built from other code. If you ever create a large program or set of programs, you’ll know that it is necessary and expedient to copy useful bits of code around. This copying is incredibly easy in bracketed languages in any word processor, it just works. And in smarter development environment editors, the editor software can easily identify the bracket situation and automatically correct the format accordingly.

However, in python, when you go to copy a code group, chances are that you’ll have to go through each line and reconfigure the leading tabs and spaces. Indeed, the only way to avoid this hassle is to use special word processors that have built in functions for managing indents, and that still likely won’t work if spaces or combinations of tabs and spaces are being used.

Others have recognized this problem and developed plug ins, but I’d argue that it is a little silly not to have a native bracketed structure.

But neither python nor the bracketed languages provide a solution for deep nesting readability. To fix this issue, I’d take a lesson from html and permit optional tags when opening a bracket block, that, when assigned, must be added at the closing bracket. Something like {:count-loop codeline;codeline2; count-loop:}.

Web Development

Programming high functioning websites is an intriguing exercise, as it involves the use of many different programming languages and formats, simultaneously. I’ve written several pages recently with no fewer than four distinct programming languages/syntaxes: html, php, javascript, and sql. And this is not an uncommon situation in web programming. PHP is a widely used server side scripting language (program executed at the server that is triggered by the http request from the client), html is, of course, the standard language to get client side browsers to display any sort of content, javascript is the most common client side scripting language (program sent with the html to be executed by the client computer on their system, nowadays usually under high security scrutiny by the client browser program), and SQL is the language to communicate with databases.

And, of course, that’s just the web page files. To extend the system usefulness into wider reaching applications, I’ve used server side scripts to write files that interact with separately running python and/or bash scripts. I haven’t yet written an application that uses the php to write a python script which is executed by a crontab command and writes a new php file and then a bash script and executes it to open a browser and send the new php file an HTTP request, which triggers it to write a…. and so on, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

I might make it sound a little ridiculous that there is such language diversity in these common and commonly interacting web development languages, but it does serve a purpose.  It helps to separate the various subsystems involved in the process.  If there was only one language involved, then there would have to be some extra syntax added to separate out the client side from the server, and the server and client from the databases.  But that extra syntax wouldn’t be too hard to find an elegant solution for, especially with an object oriented language.

Rock Crushing And Plastic Recycling

Currently, there is a huge demand for mechanically crushed rock, and a huge excess of mixed plastic waste.

Mechanically crushed rocks grip together when compressed, unlike smooth river stones and cobbles that slip apart. This makes them a crucial engineering material that adds strength and longevity to concrete mixes and the engineered soil surfaces which are prepared beneath foundations and roads. Unfortunately, it takes huge amounts of energy to break the stones apart.

Mixed plastics are our poorly sorted recycling waste. In order to produce high quality recycled plastic from mixed plastic, more sorting and lots of energy are required. We in the US have a lot of this waste because China has recently stopped taking it.

Can we take the mixed plastic, melt it down, combine it with a source of existing sand, form it into shapes that mimics or improves upon crushed stone and in so doing. produce a synthetic crushed stone? I think it is an idea worth exploring. You see, the quality of the plastic is likely to be compromised because it is unsorted, but the produced synthstone can be quality sorted by attempting to press it through a steel grate with gaps that are smaller than the desired stone size. The product that breaks and is pushed through the grate is rejected and either reprocessed or used for some non-structural fill.

Such production of synthetic stone could be incorporated into existing crushed stone production process, by using fines which are washed away from clear crushed stone as a waste product in place of the sand, and the synthetic stone could then be blended with standard crushed stone.

I’m not an expert on plastic manufacturing, but my first guess approach would be to heat sand up to the minimal mixed plastic melting temperature in a large rotating barrel, then introduce chunked mixed plastic, and rotate until a synthstone dough is formed. Then load the dough into a die extruder and produce the desired mechanical shapes by slicing a die formed extrusion. I’d call this the synthstone gnocci process, if it was effective.

2019 Final Thoughts

As we come to the close of 2019, I offer one question, with tongue thoroughly en-cheeked. Why not add weight classes to the Olympics? Heavyweight pole vault, bantam weight hammer throw, etc. What could go wrong? What could go right?