Tuesday, June 02, 2015

This is why the health cost system is bullshit

Here is a good example of why the way health care is paid for in this country is total BS.

This week I am going in for some outpatient arthroscopic knee surgery.

So a simple question: What is it likely to cost me after insurance?

Just try to find that out.

My doctor provided me with a CPT code for the procedure and his estimated charges. But then there is the hospital facilities charge, and the anesthesiologist, etc. In other words, lots of hidden charges that would be nice to be able to budget for.

An afternoon of phone calls and online research produces nothing but frustration. The "financial counselor" at the hospital says she can only tell me the total billable cost is $18,000 -- but has no breakdown of codes, charges, etc. Blue Cross/Blue Shield says it can't help without codes. D'oh.

Its online procedure estimator doesn't let me put in the CPT code, so I'm left to use a general rough procedure -- for which the results bear no resemblance to any of the other figures.

So best guess from that is that I will owe somewhere between $1,800 and $2,400. Nothing like a 33% swing.

Dear politicians: If you want to control health care costs, cut the demagoguery  and start by insisting on transparency in the cost ahead of time. Many of us want to manage our care. But you don't give us the tools to do it.

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Monday, June 01, 2015

Why Intuit's Quicken is a bug-filled quagmire

I have used Intuit's flagship financial management software, Quicken, for more than a decade. It was a solid piece of software, if somewhat geeky in its earlier versions.

But it worked, and it worked well. And when there was a problem, which was rare, Intuit fixed it with some alacrity.

That was then. This is now. And it shows how software companies that concentrate more on layering on features and trying to continually get users to upgrade eventually end up in their own quagmire.

Quicken is now a bug-filled quagmire. Just check the user forums, which are peppered with issues, not just "how to" questions.

It began a few years ago, with Quicken 12, as I remember, when Intuit decided that you could not do cash flow accounting in your budget (in other words, enter negative and positive amounts to budget lines), but instead had to go to double-entry bookkeeping, with income and outflow lines for each applicable category.  It also complicated matters with a budget screen that, once you got past January, showed "January" of what appeared to be  the following year -- but what really wasn't; if you tried to change that amount you quickly discovered you'd changed the amount for January in the current year.

The forums went nuts. Well, users were told, that might be changed in the next edition, but no changes that year. (Some improvements have been made in later editions.)

Skip forward to Quicken 15. I've discovered at least three bugs, one of them serious and introduced with a recent update (R7), and a fourth that hasn't affected me but is so serious that it's locked people out of their password-protected data files. The bug is so bad that even the update to "fix" it (R8) can't necessarily unlock those corrupted files, according to Inuit's own posting.

NOTE: This patch cannot unlock files that are already locked. This could not be resolved with product update without adversely impacting the data quality any further.
Now, if you are introducing critical flaws with your updates, most of which are applied automatically, you've got a serious, serious issue as a software company.

The three bugs I have found fall into the category of one serious and two convenience.
  • With R7, the reconcile function on many registers has stopped working properly. It is failing to always decrement the account totals as you clear individual items. If you do not notice this and click "finish" after clearing all your items, you are likely to get an out of balance warning and Quicken's helpful suggestion to put the excess in a "Misc." category -- which would royally screw things up even more. (The "solution," for now at least, is to click on "finish later" and then go back to reconcile. Usually the amounts have then properly adjusted.) The R8 update did not fix this. And I am far from alone -- there are numerous threads on the customer forums (here's one), but no indication Intuit is paying attention.
  • From the beginning, two functions on the calendar have been screwy. These are more convenience issues, but they worked in previous versions and do save time:
    • Half the time, if you put in a calendar entry, it does not refresh and show up unless you click to the prior or previous month and then back to the month in which you put the entry.
    • If you right (or CTRL-) click on a calendar date and select Add Reminder, a bill reminder comes up automatically with no option to add transfer or income reminders. To get those, you have to go to the "Bill and Income Reminders" tab and then click "Add Reminder." Not a huge deal, but, again, extra clicks and loss of functionality in previous versions.
But my issue goes deeper -- it goes to the core of the way Intuit treats customers when they find these kinds of issues. Does Intuit have a simple bug report form? No.  You can go to the contact page and choose between calling support (I'm now 28 minutes into an estimated one-hour wait) or online chat (which was closed at 3:30 p.m.! -- and which still had a 45-minute wait earlier in the day). I've tried to report one of these through chat before, but what clearly came through was that the person was following a script and really had no clue what I was talking about (basically came down to install and reinstall, which I'd already done).

In other words, there's nothing "quick" about Quicken.

To Intuit's credit, it did respond to my plaintive tweets, initially by sending me to the infernal "contact us" form (that generally tries to shunt you off to the customer forums where the "superusers"  tend to tell you you don't know what you're talking about ). The options there? Phone or chat.

Later, it tweeted a link to an online survey where you have to vote for what feature you'd like to see improved just so you can dump all the issues into an "other" box. It's lame, but I'd encourage every Quicken user with issues to "flood the zone" so to speak till they take it down.

Good software organizations like Mozilla have an easy way to report issues. They get customer service -- and they don't even charge for their software.

One other thing reflects Intuit's "just don't get it" situation. Most times, Quicken will update automatically, if a patch is available, when you start it. (This can be both good and bad -- just ask the users for whom R6 thoroughly corrupted their files. Even the dreaded Microsoft gives you the option of being notified of  updates but not applying them till you say so.) But I've had times when the download does not complete. So just go and do it manually, right, by finding the "software update" button off the menus? Ha! There are updates, but you have to do a "one step update," which also involves updating accounts or portfolios, etc. (at least one of them) so you can get a message when that is complete that there is a software update you can download and apply. How screwy is that? (And god forbid that somehow it doesn't download correctly that time, either. Then it's back to "one step update.") How hard would it be to put a " check for updates" entry in the menu as most decent software companies do?

In short, there was a time I highly recommended Quicken. Not anymore.

Maybe Intuit will get its act back together someday.

Meanwhile, I'm in 47 minutes into holding with the repeated assurance that "your call will be answered shortly."
Update: One hour, 9 minutes and counting.

Update: 1 hour, 32 minutes later. It appears Intuit may have solved the issue with the Mondo patch (which is not noted in the related threads I've been following on the customer forums -- and as noted I already had updated to R8) http://quicken.intuit.com/support/help/patching/quicken-2015-for-windows-release-notes--updates--and-mondo-patch/GEN86565.html
The calendar issues are not fully resolved. I'm seeing fewer needs to refresh but the add reminder issue still is unresolved.

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