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Thursday, December 26, 2013

The top money-saving tools online


Online tools and mobile apps help consumers control  their finances
By Nick Dunin


The internet has many uses that go beyond learning and communication. If you are well versed with the web and if you are technically minded, then there are tons of ways you can make money and set up incredibly businesses online and even if you're not there are lots of money saving tools.

In fact, the web is now so ubiquitous that for the most part it can help you to solve almost any problem. Here we will look at some of the best tools available online that anyone can use, to help you save cash and live more comfortably.

Cash-back websites  


Cash-back websites include sites like 'Quidco' and offer to not just save you money but actually pay you money for every purchase you make. By following a link they provide, you can buy from a whole range of things online and then get money back for your hard work. So how does it work? Simple: the websites get commission for referring you as a customer to another website which will usually be somewhere to the tune of 30%. They then encourage people to buy through their links by offering to share that commission, thereby earning you more money back on your purchases.

Comparison websites

            
Comparison websites allow you to quickly compare the prices of various services in one place. If you were thinking of taking out care insurance then for example, you might first head on over to a to a price-comparison website in order to find out how much all the various providers were charging. These sites work particularly well because they will normally ask you to input your personal details first - meaning that the prices they compare are those tailored to your specific circumstances and requirements.
Paperless billing helps organize financial records

Paperless billing


Paperless billing is great for the environment of course because it means you aren't going to be wasting reams of paper. At the same time, it's also good for your organization because it allows you to have access to all of your bills and documents online rather than having to sort through tons of paper files (and store them somewhere). Best of all though, it's also often good for your wallet because it will often give you access to considerable discounts - it's easier for those companies to work without paper documents so they offer lower rates as incentives. So, going paperless is good for you, them and the environment. Do it!

Amazon/eBay

            
Amazon and eBay can save you money of course by letting you sell your old things but even better is how much more cheaply you can buy a lot of your things by going online. For instance, if you are planning on buying a book or DVD, then getting it from Amazon's used and new section will often mean you don't pay more than a couple of dollars. eBay is also great for important things like gadgets from abroad which can often get you great deals.

Group buys

           
If there's something you want but can't afford, then the web might just offer you one more option - that being a group buy. Find a forum or somewhere else where lots of people discuss a particular niche or hobby, then just ask if they want to club together for a group buy from a wholesale site. This way you put in an order for a bulk lot and thereby receive a considerable discount and just share those items between you when they arrive.

Voucher sites


Voucher sites discount group buying
Voucher sites are a great way to enjoy the activities and hobbies you love without spending a fortune. These sites, which include businesses such as Groupon, work by providing vouchers for a range of activities, restaurants and more in order to help promote those businesses. Of course you needn't worry about the promotion - you just get to benefit from the impressive discounts and enjoy things that would otherwise potentially be too expensive.

Competitions


This one's a long shot but if you have the patience and the time, there are a huge range of competitions available online that you can use to get free merchandise and cash prizes. You have to be in it to win it and thanks to the web it's surprisingly quick and easy to enter yourself into a ton of separate draws.


About the author: The Author of this post, Nick Dunin, maintains a finance blog and works at Debt Consolidation as a financial advisor. He provides advice to many who are stuck with debt repayment and also blog about his views and opinions on debt/loan issues.

Images: Author owned and licensed 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Money is like moments lost in time, like tears in the rain

Money is subject to existential futility because it is temporary and of limited meaning in life. Seen in a different light, money is a fleeting token or reward that compensates lack of faith. Rutger Hauer captured and described this existential dilemma of a souless life in the film "Bladerunner",  which is based on the novel "Do androids dream of electric sheep?".  

In his ad hoc soliloquey before dying, the android Roy expresses how all that he has experienced will go away after his passing. Money, like experience is left behind, but experience is the stuff of memory, which may actually persist according to neurologist Dr. Eben Alexander in the book "Proof of heaven". Roy's ironically timeless fiction also persists in the YouTube excerpt below:


Perhaps in metaphor, the human replicant named Roy actually did have a moneyless soul as the dove in his hand is freed after his passing. Again, with or without a soul, Roy's existential issue is that the things of human and pseudo-human life are temporary.

The fact of the matter however, is that all that exists, is. Whether one chooses to deny what happens before one's very eyes is a choice, but as with many things in life, not all decisions are necessarily the right ones; such is the human condition. The choice to value or not value money, and how it is used is consequently a matter of one's perspective on life.

So given how many actual ways of doing and seeing things in addition to the myriad of recorded perceptions both in science and everyday reality, is it really so far fetched to think one of these things might actually be soulful spiritual being? Fiction or not, spirituality exists and practicing it is a choice no stranger than some other beliefs. For example, does it really make a lot of sense to believe in money so much that all other perception and understanding of the world is clouded over by notions of finance?

Human biological life begins to decay sometime between 20-25 years of age. Following this, a slow life-long palliative condition of terminal decline takes hold. It is in this often slow weakening of the human body that wisdom emerges and people come to realize all that they are in this world includes what they do in it. 

The lives we lead differ greatly and are influenced by personality, belief, profession and our biological condition among other things. These lives happen in a very strange place called Earth, with its alleged ghosts, bigfoots, psychics, scientists, artists, mass beliefs, miracles, births etc.

In a similar vein of reasoning, perhaps the Furion/Necromonger from "Chronicles of Riddick" who says,  "We all began as something else" before walking into a fiery heat so hot that he was sure to burn knew something of this. In other words, and via the possibility of analogy, he comes to learn that what he has become is not worth as much as what he had been or where he came from. Rather than letting the dove fly after passing away, he drops his knife before voluntarily burning what he had become. Is his Furion self representative of his true purpose in life and potentially his more spiritually inclined self?


There seems to be a creative parallelism between the two scenes. You'd have to ask the film's director if he or she was inspired by "Bladerunner" when making this latter clip. So what does any of this have to do with money again? Not much really, which is the whole point.

If all you live for is money, then all you value will eventually be lost in the rain just like Roy in Bladerunner; and all that you become may be just as empty as the Furion turned Necromonger in "Chronicles of Riddick". Those whose empty materialism eats away at their soul may understand this character quite well.

Just in case the message of this post is still not clear,  another work of art conveys a similar existential message of temporary mortal life. Specifically the song, "Dust in the wind", originally sung by Kansas. However, the version below is a flattering remake in which the verse "All we do crumbles to the ground and we refuse to see" is sung.


What exactly are we refusing to see?

Why money is an illusion

Money is a human construct and therefore non-essential
Money is a human construction, when we were a neolithic non-cultured species, money was a concept yet to be conceived. Perhaps it was a random intuition that briefly and dimly flickered in the consciousness of people more concerned about what was in front of them than what could be, for better or for worse, a 'reality'.

Illusions are thought to be deceptive, misleading or misrepresentational of reality. Money is believed to be an essential necessity, and indeed, it is in the world we have created for ourselves, but it is not per se a requirement for living which is what contributes to its illusory qualities. Rather it is an a priori deduction which is a conceptual abstraction that can be actualized through a printing press, and not a definitive empirical requirement for life. 
Money is illusory because it is misperceived as absolute

In more concrete terms, look at the value of the dollar. It's not directly based on  or 'backed' by any physical collateral such as federal real estate, precious metals etc. The dollar's value is based on perceptions of its value, belief in its worth and what it represents. Currency trader's decisions aren't always, if ever based on evaluation of the dollar's actual wotrh under controlled experimental research conditions for accuracy. In other words, it's based on perceptions, beliefs, indicating financial metrics, and changes in market conditions.

In terms of human senses, money is a paper or a digital representation of wealth, but it is not wealth per se. Wealth is a subjective concept unique to individual's belief about what it means to be "wealthy". When money itself is perceived as wealth, then it has successfully created an illusion just like the flowers above aren't actually flowers, but illusions of flowers made with money and paper.

It's kind of like faith! maybe that's why it says 'In God We Trust" on the back of a dollar bill.

Image licenses: IMTFI, Creative Commons

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Are electronic health records causing medical bills to rise?

By Kenneth Gray
While the goal of the recent shift to using electronic health records in hospitals was to lower the cost of healthcare and improve efficiency, it appears to have had a number of negative effects that were not anticipated. Some doctors and hospitals are now billing higher fees to Medicare, private insurers and patients after making the change to electronic health records.

The new system actually makes it easier for hospitals to bill more for their services whether or not they are actually providing additional care. Patients are discovering more than ever that they are overbilled and even charged for procedures they never received.

Medical billing efficiency has not benefited patients as much as doctors
Special equipment converts paper records to digital ones

Enforcement needed


The government has spent more than $30 billion in incentives since 2009 to help doctors and hospitals obtain equipment for converting to electronic medical record keeping from traditional paper files. The intentions of the program were to increase patient safety, improve hospitals efficiency and ultimately lower the cost of health care.

Unfortunately, the government failed to enforce strict controls over billing software which many hospitals are now using for medical fraud. In 2010 hospitals received $1 billion dollars more in Medicare reimbursements than they had five years before by taking advantage of electronic billing codes. 

Reimbursement increase


While digital medical records actually do serve to lower costs for hospitals by allowing smoother information sharing and cutting down on medical errors, the effect of doctors’ more aggressive billing tactics have increased the overall cost to patients.

The connection between the shift to electronic records and the increase in medical bills is easy to identify based on records from the beginning of the program. Hospitals saw a steep increase in higher reimbursements coinciding with the year they made the change to electronic health records with a 47 percent rise in Medicare payments.

Tracking down violators


Federal and state regulators as well as investigators for the U.S. Department of Health are now faced with the task of finding the providers who are taking advantage of the new technology. The electronic system is more vulnerable to fraud because of the ease with which doctors can cut and paste examinations for multiple patients. Doctors and hospitals can manipulate billing codes to gain higher fees when they are not providing any more care.

This has been especially problematic in hospitals providing emergency services which use the billing software more often. Many doctors claim that their new coding systems are more accurate and that they were under billing in past. However, the fact remains that health care costs have steeply increased and electronic records are known to be an easier and faster way to be fraudulent.

Patients are losing


Even though electronic health records could be beneficial for hospitals, the abuse of the new system has made healthcare costs even more difficult for patients to pay. Doctors are including billing codes for exams and procedures that never took place and overcharging patients, especially those receiving Medicare.

In its push to convert medical billing to an electronic system, the government failed to prevent the possibility of fraud and provide stricter regulations that would protect patients from paying too much for medical bills. 


About the author: Kenneth Gray has years of experience resolving health insurance issues and specializing in medical billing for A-Fordable Billing Solution.

Image: Juhan Sonin. Creative Commons