Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Price-Gouging Pharmacies, Inflexible Insurance, and Healthcare 2014

Normally at this time of the year, people write their end of the year reviews or predictions for the year ahead.  I find most of those features slightly more entertaining than guessing how many times Ryan Seacrest has his makeup touched up during his Times Square broadcast on New Year's Eve.  So rather than write about what I saw in the last year or what I see ahead, I want to share a true story about healthcare, especially with the Affordable Care Act affecting so many people.  There is a lesson here, or at least I hope there is.

Metformin, prescribed 48 million
times a year
I'm a fat guy, and fat guys sometimes get high blood sugar or diabetes.  My doctor recently put me on a medication to try and keep my sugar down, along with diet and exercise.  I don't mind telling you what the stuff is, it's called Metformin and it's been around forever as a first step in treating cases like mine.  No big deal, let's try this stuff for a few months and see if it helps.

I took the prescription to my neighborhood Walgreen's store, got it filled and paid $8.01 for a month's supply using my health insurance. When I tried to get it filled for the third month of the experiment, my insurance company, Express Scripts, refused to pay for the medicine, saying after two fills I HAD to get the drug filled in a 90 day supply via mail order through them.  No exceptions, even though you only need 30 days to see if the stuff works, you need to get a 90 day supply and wait for us to mail it to you.

Full disclosure: I've had so many problems with Express Scripts "customer care", website, and mobile app that I've offered to come to work for them or consult to help them improve what is arguably some of the worst "customer care" other than major airlines. Funny, I've never heard back from them.

Walgreen's already had the refill being processed, so I checked with them to see how much it would cost without insurance paying part of the freight. After all, the insurance price for the generic was just over eight bucks,, the pill has been around forever, and it's a generic.  How much worse could it be?  How about $24.99? You're seeing it right, no insurance and I have to pay more than THREE TIMES the cost of the drug, which I guessing wholesales for about $3.50.  Now I know every pharmacy makes most of their money at the "back of the store" on prescriptions, but $25 for something that cost $8 with insurance?  I might have to call that price gouging. Wait, I already called it that.

So I took to the interwebz and did some comparison shopping.  Turns out
Metformin is an inexpensive drug, so inexpensive that big box stores and other places that offer $4.00 30 day prescriptions have it on their list.  So do many grocery stores with pharmacies, and I like to give my business to local companies
when I can, so I had the prescription transferred to Dierbergs, a family-owned St. Louis grocery chain. They're just a few blocks away from Walgreen's, even have a drive though pharmacy, and sell the same exact pill, right down to the manufacturer, for HALF of what I was paying for it using my health insurance and less than ONE SIXTH of what I would have to pay at retail.

Here's the lesson, one that will get more and more important as Big Pharma, doctors, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers try to figure our how to make more money in the new world of Obamacare.  These people are not your friends.  They don't stay up nights figuring out ways to save you money on the services and medicines you need.  They have no guilt about charging you $25 for a drug you can get down the street for $4.  Forget the commercials with the caring, fatherly doctor or pharmacist making people happy. Those people are actors, and they're doing a mighty fine job of playing the part of someone who gives a damn about you.

Healthcare, and especially the pharmaceutical industry is BIG business. Don't just take what your insurance company or pharmacy says as gospel. Take a little time to make sure you're not being taken advantage of and overpaying for the things you need, whether it's Metformin or (G-d forbid) a mastectomy.  Get a second opinion, check to see if you can get the same medicine or service for less, and sometimes that means not using your insurance at all and taking advantage of a better deal. You'll be healthier, happier, and have more money in your pocket.
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Saturday, October 05, 2013

Mark Edwards Worldwide Returns

This post was originally published on the Mark Edwards Worldwide Blog on October 3, 2013.

I wanted you to know about a decision I've made. As I see the digital media landscape unfolding and the opportunities to create a myriad of highly effective content growing, I'm returning to working with selected clients at the consultancy I've run since 2007, Mark Edwards Worldwide. This move will allow me to maximize my time and efficiency while sharing the things I've learned about the digital, social media, and new technology spaces with clients who really want to succeed in those worlds. It gives me great pleasure to say that TeshMedia is on the client list so I'll be able to continue to work with John and his team going forward.

After working for a year and a half as Senior Vice President of Content Development with John Tesh and the TeshMedia Group, we've accomplished a lot, more than doubling our online audience, growing website visits and conversions, and starting a video version of John's Intelligence For Your Life brand.

I've had the chance to implement countless online and social media programs, develop and fine tune best practices, learn an astonishing amount about online video and TV production, and help contribute to the continued success of the John Tesh Radio Show. It's been the most rewarding professional experience of my career, and I know the things I've learned working with John and his gifted team will help me immensely. You can see many of the fruits of our labors at the new IntelligenceForYourLife.com and in our new mobile apps.

I'm always on the lookout for the next opportunity, whether it be in a consulting, project, or full time capacity, so please keep me in mind for anything you might know about and feel free to share my contact information with your network.

I'd like to thank John and the TeshMedia family for a wonderful experience and thank you for your friendship and support. Let's stay in touch and do great things together. You can find me here and get all my contact info at http://about.me/markedwards.

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Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Cubs Have Crossed The Red, um, YELLOW Line

This blog item is reposted from my official Major League Baseball Blog.

I haven't posted about the Cubs all this season for one simple reason.  They stink.  The owners stink, the players try their best but overall they stink, and it's been a horrible season. I haven't even gotten the chance to get up to the Friendly Confines Of Wrigley Field for a game due to work commitments.  

But when I woke up this morning and saw this story in what we used to call the World's Greatest Newspaper, my blood went into boiling mode and I simply had to chime in with my thoughts.

Courtesy Chicago Tribune


Anheuser-Busch new Cubs exclusive beer sponsor

Large beer sign to go up in Wrigley Field's right-field bleachers

By Josh Noel and Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune reporters

10:09 PM CDT, September 6, 2013
The Cubs announced a deal Friday to make Anheuser-Busch their exclusive beer sponsor in 2014 and beyond, and they plan to install a 650-square-foot Budweiser sign in the right-field bleachers. 
That's bad news for Old Style, which has had an affiliation with the team for more than 60 years, as well as for Wrigleyville rooftop owners opposed to installing a large sign that could obstruct some views.

A source said the Cubs will install a mock-up of the sign when the team goes on the road next week. While it's questionable whether construction on the $300 million ballpark renovation plan will begin this offseason as planned, the Cubs have the go-ahead to install the sign either way.

"Absolutely," Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. "We could potentially put up the sign by 2014 (before construction begins). … We have the approval to put up a left-field video board and a right-field sign, and with Anheuser-Busch as our exclusive marketing partner, we can do it by opening day."

The Cubs are running out of time to start the first phase of their Wrigley renovation plan, which is expected to take place over five offseasons. They had hoped to begin construction Sept. 26, the day after the Cubs' final home game.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said during a radio broadcast of Thursday's playoff game of the franchise's Double-A Tennessee affiliate that the heavy construction likely would have to wait until after next season. He did say, though, that fans would start seeing some changes in 2014 and more in 2015.

Green said Friday that Ricketts' comment doesn't mean the Cubs are resigned to begin the major parts of the project after the 2014 season, but that several hurdles remain before they can start, and time is running short. They originally planned to finish an expansion of the home clubhouse before next season, which now appears unlikely.

Green said the "rooftop issue" still needs to be resolved before the ballpark renovation and work on a proposed $200 million hotel on Clark Street, across from Wrigley, can begin. The Cubs want assurances from rooftop owners they won't sue over the contract they signed with the team in 2004 providing the Cubs with 17 percent of their revenue.

"We're still talking to the rooftop owners to come to a resolution," Green said. "Basically the (Ricketts) family is not comfortable making a $500 million investment with the threat of a lawsuit hanging over their heads."

But the beer sign and the video board can be installed without the permission of the rooftop owners, and both could be up during the 2014 season, the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field.

As for the exclusive beer sponsorship, Cubs fans can expect to see Goose Island flowing at the ballpark in 2014. Brewery spokeswoman Ana Serafin said it had not been determined which Anheuser-Busch brands would be available, or in what quantity, but suggested the brewery's "Chicago-influenced beers" would be obvious candidates.

Goose Island, which regained the beer contract this summer at the Pitchfork Music Festival, experimented with a pair of brews made just for the weekend-long fest. Though a considerably larger investment, would Goose Island consider a Wrigley-only exclusive too?

"A-B is being really supportive of our creativity," Serafin said. "If we come back and tell them we want to create XYZ crazy beer and it would be perfect for baseball, they would listen. But we don't know yet how creative we can get."

For Old Style lovers and traditionalists who drink it only at Wrigley, hope springs eternal. Green said the team and its concessions management partner, Levy Restaurants, might choose to continue serving Old Style in 2014.

The Anheuser-Busch deal is a marketing agreement only. Budweiser will maintain naming rights throughout the stadium, but that doesn't mean Budweiser products will be served exclusively at Wrigley, which would be illegal.

Still, the agreement gives Budweiser ample muscle when it comes time to set the Wrigley Field beer menu for 2014 and beyond. It appears likely vendors no longer will be selling Old Style in the aisles after 2013.

Whether the deal signals a seismic shift in Wrigley's beer offerings is yet to be seen, but smaller craft breweries such as Revolution Brewing don't sound optimistic.
"Sounds like a lot of dollars changed hands, and we just don't do anything like that to sell beer," Revolution founder Josh Deth said in an email. "We let the malt, hops and yeast do the talking, not the Benjamins. We're hopeful the Cubs and Levy will want to pour actual craft beer made in Chicago. And I think the fans are too."

I don't drink a lot of beer, I'm a Maker's Mark guy myself, but as long as I've been pure brewed Old Style at Wrigley Field. Just like eating a hot dog at a ballpark tastes different, drinking an Old Style at Wrigley made it taste better, way better.  It's part of the Cubs Experience, but now it looks like it may go the way of Frosty Malts and Ron Santo Pizza.
able to drink, I've enjoyed a

I understand times change, but Old Style has managed to stay in business for many years, partly because of the loyalty of Cubs fans, the Cubs organization, and the association the brand has enjoyed with the Cubs for as long as I can remember.  Hardly anything beats sitting in the stands at Wrigley, even the Budweiser Bleachers, enjoying a semi-cold Old Style and seeing Starlin Castro blow a routine force out.  But it looks like that may not be happening in the future.

Tom Ricketts and Cubs Management have done a lot to make me and other Cubs fans angry since they bought the club.  I won't list everything here, and don't get me started on the Wrigley Field renovation plans.  But this time they've crossed the Red, um YELLOW LINE when it comes to how they run the club and the kind of fan experience they give us.

So what can we do in answer to this unprovoked attack on the Cubs Experience? Sadly, not much.  Send an email to fanservices@cubs.com and tell them what you think, although they probably won't answer you back.  Anheuser-Busch InBev is allegedly headquartered here in St. Louis, and I know people down at "The Brewery" who will be getting calls and emails from me all next week.  You could appeal to Kevin Feehan, the guy in charge of selling Budweiser in Chicago, to let the Old Style pour, but even if you could get him to respond, he'd probably blame someone in San Paulo or Brussels, the REAL homes of A-B, for the decision.

That leaves one final avenue of appeal, Levy Restaurants, who handles food service at Wrigley Field, and might actually have the power to keep the pure brewed Old Style flowing at the ballpark.  Their phone number is  (773) 975-3606 and you should join me in calling them during weekday business hours or contact them on the Interwebz and (NICELY) demand your Old Style.  They're also on Facebook and Twitter if you feel inclined to follow then and send them a NICE message about this abhorrent situation. Don't act like a Chicago policeman and be all pushy and mean, ask them NICELY to keep Old Style at Wrigley Field. Who knows, it might actually work.  And monkeys could fly out of my butt.

Some things, like the Cubs having a winning season, are an uphill battle.  Getting Old Style in Wrigley Field might be one too.  But I leave you with the encouraging words of Cub Fan John Belushi as you join me on the quest to keep at least ONE Wrigley Field tradition alive.  WHO'S WITH ME?

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Friday, August 09, 2013

If This Video Doesn't Stop You From Texting While Driving, You Are Not Human

I don't have a lot to say about this, because sometimes a video will tell a story in a way that I could never attempt to.  This is one of those videos.

The acclaimed writer, director, and producer Werner Herzog was commissioned to produce this documentary about what is politely called "Distracted Driving" for the "It Can Wait" campaign sponsored by AT&T.  The film is called "From One Second To The Next".  You just have to watch it to understand how powerful and heartbreaking the message is.

Watch this.  Watch it with your family. Watch it with your kids if they're of driving age or will be driving soon.  But take the 35 minutes to REALLY watch this.

I'm a huge fan of technology, and I use it all the time.  But I also know texting, and even walking and texting or talking on the phone, kills.  If you or your family or friends have any doubts about why you texts, phone calls, checking your e mail or whatever can wait, you shouldn't after watching this film.

And if you still don't get it, you not only don't have a heart, you haven't got much of a brain.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

I Think I'm Hurt, Or Should I Be Honored?

My 15 year old son told me he saw a clip from the TV show "Family Guy" that had a character that looked like me in it.  I found that kind of interesting, so I checked it out.  He tells me the guy on the right hand side of the second row looked "Just like you, dad". Here it is:
The National Association For The Advancement Of FAT People?  REALLY?

I think I'm hurt.  Or I should send Seth McFarlane a bill for the use of my image and description without the consent of the Commissioner Of Major League Baseball or something like that?
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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mark's Presentation At The 2013 NAB Show

Thanks to those who came to see the session I spoke at during the NAB show in Las Vegas.  The session was called "The Digital Mindset, How Stations Are Making Money With Digital" and was produced in cooperation with the Radio Advertising Bureau.

As promised, here are the slides from my part of the presentation.

Please don't hesitate to reach out to me at MarkE@TeshMedia.com if you have any questions or comments on the presentation.

Thanks to the NAB and RAB for having me on the panel!
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Watch Falling Snow Sign
Watch Falling Snow Sign (Photo credits: www.mysafetysign.com)
Yes, I'm being kind of sarcastic.  Maybe more than kind of sarcastic.

The St. Louis area is under a Winter Storm Warning for a storm that will hit us Thursday midday and end Thursday night.  I just saw a weatherman on TV call tomorrow "a really rotten Thursday".  Schools are closing for tomorrow, and it's only about 6:30 Wednesday night.  REALLY?

When you look at the official forecast map from the National Weather Service, it doesn't look like it's going to be quite the mess the TV people are warning us of.  And when I scan some of the geeked out raw weather data, it's not that much different than the photo below.
I'm not sure 1-3 inches of snow and sleet, which is what the NWS is still calling for, should create the panic in the minds of the TV weatherpeople and the citizenry of the St. Louis metropolitan area, but everyone seems to be freaking out in a big way.  If you're in a place like Kansas City and they're predicting 10 to 12 inches of snow, THEN you freak out.  1-3, not so much.

So the grocery stores are jammed, people are buying their milk, bread, and eggs so they can have french toast while they're snowbound, Sears sent me an e mail telling me it was going to snow and I should run right in and buy a snow blower, and my kids tell me there's no reason to do their homework because they KNOW they won't have school tomorrow.  UPDATE: My kids' school district is closing school tomorrow due to the threat of icy conditions in the afternoon.

Maybe it's my Chicago roots, maybe it's my cynicism that my friends who do the weather around here are blowing this up so they can seem really important and grow their ratings, or perhaps I'm just delusional and we'll all be paralyzed by the storm tomorrow.  Regardless, I'm still not buying it.

I'll be posting video updates on the storm throughout the day tomorrow. Check my Facebook page, my 15 second video updates on Tout, and other outposts on the Interwebz for updates.   Unless the storm completely immobilizes me and those around me.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy World Radio Day

Photograph of a young girl listening to the ra...
Photograph of a young girl listening to the radio during the Great Depression. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While it's being mostly overlooked by United States broadcasters, today is the UN's World Radio Day.  Not being able to find much from American radio operators or industry trade organizations about the day, I present a program from the BBC World Service talking about World Radio Day, the importance of radio (which I absolutely agree with) and sharing some great moments in radio history. Just click here to hear this extraordinary program. 

Even thought I've migrated to the world of Content Creation and New Media, radio is still my first love and it saddens me that American radio operators haven't taken the opportunity to really embrace World Radio Day and remind people how important a role radio STILL plays in their everyday life.  
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Friday, January 18, 2013

ZOMG, I'm The Father Of THREE Teenagers

This is a post from my Daddy Diaries column, featured at tesh.com.

Last weekend, my youngest son turned 13. That means that I am now the father of three teenage boys: a 13-year-old, a 15-year-old, and a 16-year-old. If you were hearing this, instead of reading it, there would be a dramatic music sound inserted right here, kind of like dum dum dummmmmmmmmm.

Now, before I forget, the picture that accompanies this post is not of my actual children. I have this thing about Web privacy, so these are models pretending to be my actual children. In my opinion, my actual children are much cuter than these models, although no less threatening. That being said, my three teenage boys have three different personalities and each comes with their own set of challenges.

I knew the day would come that I would be seen as a geezer and have older kids. I’m still trying to process watching them grow and become young adults because it seems like I held each them in just one hand only a few days ago.

The youngest son is an incredible movie fanatic – much like a very young, but just as feisty, Roger Ebert. His favorite part about turning 13 is that he’s now able to see a PG-13 movie on his own. I thought that he’d be all fired up to get his own Facebook page instead, but he's busy watching movies on his tablet, analyzing the composition of each and every shot as if he were Christopher Nolan.

The 15-year-old suffers from “middle child syndrome" at times, but is pretty well adjusted for the most part. He lives for music, plays five instruments, is an accomplished Boy Scout, all the while managing to be a total chick magnet. Each of those things provides unique challenges on their own, but roll it all together and it can be quite a ball of fire to deal with on a daily basis. He also seems to suffer some sort of video game fixation – notice I did not say the word addiction – and would probably spend every waking moment with a PlayStation remote in his hand, if he wasn't so busy doing all the other things in his life.

Then there is the oldest boy. He’s 16-years-old and a sophomore in high school. Seriously, when did my baby become a sophomore in high school? And now he’s old enough to drive? When did my bundle of joy become hairier than I am? Honestly, it's kind of freaking me out. When I think about how much all of my kids have grown and wonder how they got to be teenagers, it certainly has me thinking about how time flies.

The 13-year-old’s birthday was a pretty jarring moment in many ways. But just as I was becoming a little more comfortable with him becoming a teenager, I got a kick in the face when the mail came yesterday. My oldest son, who still has two-and-a-half years left in high school, received his first college recruiting letter yesterday. He scored highly on some standardized test. And since the testing company sold a list of high achievers to colleges, I'm guessing they are all going to start courting kids like him. I realized it’s actually a good thing. Since I'll have three in college at the same time, it might be advantageous to have a few scholarships to help everybody out.

But the kick in the face part is that this letter, that first "Get to know us!" letter from an institute of higher learning, came from MY ALMA MATER! Yes, the place where I misspent my college years seems interested in having my son follow in my footsteps and attend their school. I've already told him that won’t happen – mostly because I don't want him finding any remnants of my time on campus that might tarnish his glowing admiration of me. Assuming he glowingly admires me. The letter also makes me question the value of a degree from an institution that would have my son as a student, after my less than spectacular tenure there. But that’s another story.

It seems like the days of being challenged by changing diapers and teething pains were only weeks ago. As I look forward to the adventures that lie ahead as the father of three teenagers, I sort of wish I still had diapers to change. Dealing with those types of messes might be easier than dealing with the challenges ahead.
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