How SHA Abuses its Own Tenants

It’s now been 3 months since I ordered ink for my new printer, but I still don’t have it–thanks to the still-broken callbox at my building that the Seattle Housing Authority won’t fix or give any information/answers about. They can’t tell us when it will be fixed, how we’re supposed to receive packages (while denying that they’ve blocked our ability to get them), and rather than generally informing residents, I was told last week that we’re supposed to go to their office in Queen Anne in person to find out what’s going on at our building–the lack of phone calls, emails, or paper/mailed newsletters or ad hoc notifications from them is as they think it should be. SHA just sees no reason to communicate with its residents. They take no responsibility for misinforming us (I spent a month chasing down the wrong contact person), or lost time or money (this ink costs 3-4 times more to buy offline). They said they’d call me back but haven’t. They routinely ignore us, requiring multiple attempts to ask questions, of multiple people, via multiple methods. They’re a big bureaucracy with a single huge switchboard phone system, so it’s hard to find out who you’re supposed to talk to–and emails and voicemails are rarely answered. I’ve contacted Rep. Adam Smith‘s office and Seattle City Council members seeking help contacting SHA, but I’m not hearing from them anymore either. Even SHA’s Board of Directors has no contact information on the website. No emails or phone numbers for the individual members (2 of whom are specifically designated to represent tenants), no general Board email address, no staff contact who can forward requests on to the Board. Just the same general mailing address. The Board meets monthly, but I was dog sitting in Burien and had to miss the August meeting.
The merchant says they’ve tried to ship my ink twice and thus can’t do anything else, like a refund or 3rd attempt. So I disputed the charge with my credit card and hope that will encourage them to compromise–I could pay the shipping for a 3rd delivery attempt if they’d agree to give the UPS driver my cell number (they refused before) or leave it at their Othello store as I’ve set up my preferences on MyUPS.
Meanwhile, I need to print things like my passport application and don’t want to use the library too much at 15 cents/page (this held up renewal of my disability transit pass). So I’m debating ordering another cartridge from someone else. Once I verify that the new printer prints, I can finally get rid of the old one.
We desperately need the Tenants Union to help us organize; it’s painfully clear that SHA only considers us to be nuisances to shoo away. As individuals, we have no power or recourse. In WA, you’re not allowed to withhold rent; they can (and will) evict you. The time, money, frustration, hassle, and emotional turmoil gratuitously forced on poor people is unconscionable and gradually wears you down. It’s time this country fought classism.

Insurers Leaving Health Exchanges–What to Do?

This certainly doesn’t look good for Obamacare

So from my perspective, the problem here is simple and was foreseen, and the solution is simple, but virtually impossible.

1) United, Humana, and now Aetna are cutting their participation in the exchanges because they can’t turn a profit. Answer: Health insurers should be banned from making profits, as every other developed nation does. Make them public, non-profit, or cooperatives.

2) Aetna is using its large market share to punish/bully the administration for nixing a merger it wanted. This should have the same solution.

3) Insurers are getting too many new (sick) subscribers at once, and/or their existing beneficiaries are getting sicker. But the New York Times recently reported that not only has Obamacare cut the uninsured rate to a modern low (<10%), but it is actually making Americans healthier. At root, those are the fundamental, critical goals of health reform–not profitability or federal deficits and debt. Let’s keep this in mind. So how to solve #3? Health insurance, like voter registration, doesn’t work when people are excluded by default unless they act. Both need to be automatic–in this case so that healthier people who are cheaper to insure are paying into the system. Shared risk is a basic principle of insurance.

But that alone isn’t enough. We still have a crazy patchwork system where people get their health care in different ways from different places. Each comes with a different population, motive, administration, needs…this complication is a big pain for patients and providers, AND it’s a major reason for our very high administrative costs. Our political system isn’t ready to face this reality, but it’s unsustainable and has to end.


I don’t care as much about which one it is; the imperative is to get everyone on Medicare (like Canada), or everyone on a fully socialized VA/IHS system (like the UK), or everyone on the exchanges or an employer-based system (like Germany). Then you greatly simplify everything, slashing administrative costs, and have one giant risk pool comprised of the whole country. No system is older or sicker or poorer. There are no big year to year changes because change happens slowly in a group of 320 million. And access to and quality of care are equal for everyone. Many of our health care problems will persist until we do this.

Primary Election Result Analysis

One metric people tend to overlook in election results is how many total ballots are cast in each race. Generally you expect more contested or controversial ones to get more votes, but the results in WA are often an instructive insight into what people care about more and less. In 2012, the marijuana and marriage ballot issues got more votes than the races for governor and senator. We had 11 statewide items on the primary ballot last week, and I’ve ranked them here in descending order of total votes cast:

Governor: 1,364,432
Senate: 1,355,229
Secretary of State: 1,318,695
Lieutenant Governor: 1,295,050
Insurance Commissioner: 1,294,131
Auditor: 1,284,437
Commissioner of Public Lands: 1,274,766
Treasurer: 1,257,099
Attorney General: 1,221,354
Supreme Court 5: 1,162,814
Superintendent of Public Instruction: 1,121,116