Sep
13

The Purdue Opioid “settlement” – key takeaways for workers’ comp

Reportedly Purdue Pharma, the fine folk behind OxyContin, is nearing a settlement with 23 state attorneys general and thousands of other governmental entities.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • this does NOT appear to be a universal settlement; other state AGs, local governments, employers, and other affected entities will almost certainly seek their own compensation from Purdue.
  • The Sackler family, Purdue’s owners, will lose up to $3 billion of their personal fortunes estimated to total $13 billion – most of which came from OxyContin sales.
  • Purdue Pharma will enter bankruptcy and future earnings will go to addressing the awful repercussions of the opioid crisis

What wasn’t included are criminal charges for the Sacklers; that is an outrage.

It is crystal clear many members of the family were intimately involved in Purdue’s efforts to shove more and more opioids down more and more throats. Not satisfied with those billions, the arrogant bastards were going to make yet more treating the addicts they created. (Note not all of the Sacklers were involved in the opioid disaster)

This from NY’s opioid lawsuit (credit Vox)

The unmitigated gall of the Sacklers is stunning; they knew their drugs were killing tens of thousands, and now wanted to profit from the untold damage they had done.

For workers’ comp, there are a couple of implications.

First, as the tort industry dives deeper into this, they will sue more and more participants. My informed opinion is payers are pretty safe for several reasons;

  • state regulations are the primary and ultimate driver of work comp coverage;
  • work comp entities led the charge to reduce opioids when they first grasped the size of the problem;
  • payers did not receive rebates from opioid scripts so there was no financial benefit to allowing the scripts; and
  • payers were damaged by the opioid industry due to much higher medical costs, extended disability duration and death claims.

I haven’t heard of any workers’ comp entity being sued for damages related to opioids – but it is possible.

Second, work comp payers have been damaged by the Sacklers and their ilk. While state funds may be involved in some of the suits seeking compensation for damages (it’s impossible for me to unpack all the plaintiffs in all the filings), I have yet to hear of any suits involving commercial insurers or reinsurers.

I’ll admit to being surprised at the work comp insurance industry’s seeming lack of interest in taking on the opioid industry. Every day:

  • Insurers go after claimants for double-dipping and false claims,
  • Insurers go after employers for falsifying payroll data,
  • Insurers go after providers for fraudulent billing for practices, and
  • Insurers sue each other over coverage issues and reinsurance claims.

Before anyone else could spell opioids, work comp payers saw the damage being done and took action.

What does this mean for you?

Work comp insurers must be a highly visible part of the solution; we owe it to policyholders and taxpayers, we owe it to patients, and we owe it to all of the insurer staff, regulators, researchers, and other stakeholders who’ve dedicated untold hours to fixing the damage done by the Sacklers and their ilk.

Need more incentive? Here’s David Sackler’s $22 million Bel Air mansion your workers’ comp dollars helped pay for.

 


Sep
6

No, hospital mergers do NOT reduce your costs

The takeaway from the American Hospital Association’s “study” of hospital mergers is NOT that mergers are good for patients, employers, and taxpayers.

It is that all of us should be skeptical readers of research conducted/paid for by entities that have a stake in the results.

The report authored by Charles River Associates – and funded by the AHA – on mergers and acquisitions in the hospital made several claims, all focused on the hospital that was acquired:

  • mergers reduced expenses at the acquired hospital;
  • quality at the acquired hospital improved; and
  • revenue per admission decreased.

Clearly the intended message is that mergers are good for us – quality goes up and the cost to us – the patients and employers and workers comp insurers, go down.

Except that’s highly misleading.

First, the study drew conclusions directly contradicted by every other study of hospital/health system consolidation.  This is likely because the study focused on the hospitals being acquired, and not the overall results of the newly merged entity. (Here is a very good review of mergers’ impact on costs and quality, here’s what NCCI had to say.
And here’s what happens to patients – spoiler – you get to pay more.
If the authors had included results from the acquiring hospitals this would have been much more useful.  Overall, the report provides no useful insights into the changes in costs, revenues, or quality resulting from mergers.
Second, the study reported expense reductions from mergers are relatively small at 1.5% to 3.5% of total expenses. As I mentioned to WorkCompCentral’s Elaine Goodman, most every merger outside the hospital industry produces expense savings at or very close to double digits, thus the “cost-reduction” benefits touted by the AHA are rather less than impressive.
Second, claims about improvements in quality of care are not convincing for two reasons.  First, statements about types of improvements consist of examples cited by interviewees. Second, as the acquired hospital may transfer, or more likely, not accept higher-acuity patients, it is not surprising that their quality measures (re-admissions, mortality rates, etc) improve. Healthier patients = better quality ratings.
Third, the report indicates ” acquisitions are also associated with a reduction in net patient revenue per admission “ at the acquired hospital. There could be many reasons for patient revenues to decline, including moving more critical patients  – who cost more to treat – from the acquired hospital to the acquiring hospital. Changes in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement could also be a factor. Notably the report did not discuss revenue reductions across the newly merged entity.
Here’s what REALLY happens to hospital revenues…
What does this mean for you?
For workers’ comp payers, don’t think this is good news..
Hospital costs are hurting workers’ comp payers.  Revenue maximization efforts by hospitals and healthcare systems in non-Medicaid expansion states, are driving comp medical costs higher.

Note – For years I have been doing research on several issues important to work comp – pharmacy, bill review, claims systems, utilization review. Some of have been sponsored by companies active in the space – but they’ve never had access to respondent-specific data nor any input into the analysis or report writing process.

Still, you should read all my research with a careful eye – as you should read all research.


Sep
5

Chronic pain, opioids, and workers’ comp

The hammer is starting to fall on the opioid industry and the repercussions are echoing thru the comp industry.

  • J&J owes Oklahoma $573 million after losing its case in the state
  • Purdue Pharma’s owners are trying to settle all suits for $10-$13 billion
  • the huge case in Federal Court in Ohio will go to trial next month

In work comp, opioid spend has been cut in half over the last three years, but the reductions are not consistent across the states. WCRI’s latest report has insights into where the problem is most severe – which helps you figure out where to allocate resources. Kudos to authors Dongchun Wang, Vennela Thumula, and Te-Chun Liu for putting together the report.

Meanwhile, we’re being inundated with “alternative” treatments for chronic pain. One just-published study (hat-tip to Steve Feinberg, MD) shows that invasive procedures are pretty much useless; here’s the takeaway:

There is little evidence for the specific efficacy beyond sham for invasive procedures in chronic pain…Given their high cost and safety concerns, more rigorous studies are required before invasive procedures are routinely used for patients with chronic pain.

BTW for clinicians, Steve wants you to consider attending the CSIMS meeting coming up next month.

As we transition away from opioids, how do we help patients with chronic pain? What works, what doesn’t, and why? And most importantly, how do we work with treating physicians to solve the problem?

Of course, a key reason docs have over-prescribed invasive treatments is financial; there’s a ton of money in doing stuff to patients, compared to a few pounds of money for working with patients. But that’s only part of the story.

Simply walking into a physician’s office with a fancy dashboard and telling the physician that doing X is in their best interest does not work.

To get docs to change behavior, you have to understand why they are doing what they are, provide them accessible data showing why that’s not helpful, and get them involved in change.

Is that a lot of work? Well, maybe. Break it down into chunks and it’s not so daunting.  Identify a few docs you want to work with, talk with them about the issue, and develop solutions together. This takes time, patience, and most of all a commitment to listening and understanding.

The payoff is trust between you and the treating physician, which leads to a lot less work for your front-line staff, and a lot better outcomes for your work comp patients.

What does this mean for you?

You need a plan to help patients with chronic pain. And that plan has to include treating physicians. 


Aug
27

Get uncomfortable.

A recent email exchange with a client crystalized an all-too-common problem in our industry – complacency. 

Truth is, too many of us are not comfortable with being uncomfortable.  That is, we don’t want to be pushed, challenged, prodded, forced to defend our ideas, business practices, long-held beliefs.

When we’re confronted with the possibility that there’s a better way than the way we’ve always done it, we don’t listen – instead, we get defensive and withdraw. Yet we all can point to countless examples where complacency led to utter collapse and defeat.

History is chock-full of examples. Unsinkable ships, unbeatable foes, impossible achievements abound. The Titanic, the Tuskegee Airmen, Agincourt, Trump’s election all remind us to beware of assumptions.

The best part of sport is the victory of the underdog; Harvard’s 1998 women’s hoops knocking off no. 1 seed Stanford , the Amazin’ Mets, the Miracle on Ice in 1980, Texas Western’s NCAA basketball championship over Kentucky in 1966 are all great examples where what was supposed to happen…didn’t.

Yet we all know of companies whose cultures can’t possibly conceive that they aren’t the best, smartest, most experienced and knowledgable and expert in the business. The “If it wasn’t invented here it didn’t need to be invented” mindset prevails, killing off any and all efforts to challenge the status quo.

Like Goliath before David, companies afflicted with a culture of complacency will lose to unheralded competitors. In most cases this will happen because the culture of complacency’s rejection of outside ideas prevents it from seeing what in retrospect is obvious.

Unless you get comfortable with being uncomfortable, you’re at high risk. Each of us need to ask the awkward, difficult questions that make us squirm. Why do we do it this way? If we were competing with us, how would we defeat us? Where are our weak spots, and how can they be exploited?

More broadly, how else could our customers’ needs be met [and do we really understand what those needs are today, and will be tomorrow]? As the world changes, how are we sure we will evolve fast and smart enough to lead, if not keep pace? Why are we so sure of ourselves?

One more thought.  Really good athletes put themselves in distress all the time – because if they aren’t trying to perform perfectly when exhausted, stressed, when their muscles are screaming and lungs are burning, they won’t win.

In a word, they get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s why they succeed.

What does this mean for you?

When was the last time you were uncomfortable, and did you hide from it or use it to get better?


Aug
16

Conference overload

For a relatively small industry, there sure are a ton of conferences.

From WCRI to NCCI to AASCIF to CSIA to CLM to PRIMA to NWCDC to SIIA to WCI360 to RIMS to AFERM to the ExecuSummit and dozens of other national events, to state WC events in Montana, California, Georgia and every other state, to payer-sponsored confabs, to provider-centric events you could spend most of the year scheduling, traveling to, preparing for, and attending conferences.

While there’s no doubt a lot can be learned – at some events from some speakers – it’s also pretty clear we’ve got so many conferences it has become impossible to figure out which ones are the most useful, provide the most insight, and are the most efficient use of your time.

On top of the sheer number of events, there are three additional issues; many have become pay-to-present, and the emphasis on drawing specific types of attendees has affected – I would argue negatively – actual learning opportunities.

Lastly, there’s far too much navel-gazing and far too little emphasis on external factors that directly affect workers’ comp.

Allow me to explain.

It is damn near impossible to get a speaking slot at many events unless your employer is a conference sponsor or a very large employer.  That’s not to say some presentations aren’t useful and worthy of your time, and some listeners can’t come away with something useful. Rather it is to call attention to the lack of diversity among presenters, the seemingly repetitive topics, the lack of much of anything new or insightful.

Do we really need another session on return to work or managing cat injuries or heaven forbid, predictive analytics?

Yeah, I get there are always folks new to work comp that find value in learning the basics, but there’s far too much time spent rehashing things that have been hashed to death.

There are innovative, smart, insightful entities and people out there who are pushing the industry to be better, innovate, do stuff smarter. It’s often tough for them to get a slot because they aren’t able to sponsor internet cafes, refreshment breaks, newsletters or buy big exhibit space.

Second, some conferences push to include speakers from types of organizations that potential attendees want to meet, get to know and hopefully do business with. One example is the emphasis on employers, which appears to be based at least in part on the idea that more brokers and consultants will attend.

Ostensibly the point in having an employer talk about an issue, solution, approach or program is so other employers can learn from that. While there’s a kernel of value there, I’d argue that what is relevant for a big airline, a major big-box retailer, a multi-state manufacturer or large healthcare system is not going to be terribly relevant to the other employer types on the list.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “well, if I had a thousand workers in XYZ city I could negotiate with an occ clinic too”, or “how do I apply that to my interstate trucking company” or “yeah that’s not going to fly with my unionized workforce”.

Finally, when was the last time a presentation dove into:

  • the impact of provider consolidation on healthcare delivery and cost;
  • why and how healthcare systems and hospitals are driving up expenses;
  • how recessions impact workers’ comp;
  • the second-order effects of opioids and the dramatic reduction of same on claim reserves, future premiums, and actuarial models; or
  • the changing nature of our economy and how that will affect workers’ comp

I know these topics have seen some daylight, but nowhere near enough, for they are MUCH more important and will have MUCH greater impact than tweaks to RTW or cat injury management ever could.

What does this mean for you?

For conference planners, there’s an opportunity to break out from the usual and differentiate.

For conference attendees, reward those planners – and learn a lot more useful stuff.

 


Aug
14

The next recession – when will it get here and how bad will it be

When recessions hit, workers’ comp, healthcare, and healthcare delivery systems are deeply affected. Jobs are lost and so are benefits, claims decrease than increase, injured workers don’t have jobs to return to.

There are some indications that we may be on the cusp of a recession today.

  • The inverted yield curve (short term interest rates are lower than long term rates) is one clear sign, 
  • ” weakness in auto sales, industrial production and aggregate hours worked” are also factors, as is
  • the weakening economy (growth fell from 3.1% in the first quarter to 2.1% in the April to June quarter).
  • Job growth has fallen to 140,000 a month, down from 220,000 just a few months ago, signaling employers are being more cautious about expanding
  • The trade war is hammering agriculture and manufacturing, with Goldman Sachs estimating it has cut GDP 0.6% so far. That’s going to get worse when the latest round of tariffs kick in, with some slated to start in 2 weeks.

One of the few positive signs, initial jobless claims, remain stable which argues against a recession.

And this from Forbes:

The New York Fed’s recession probability model is currently warning that there is a 30% probability of a recession in the next 12 months. The last time that recession odds were the same … was just five months before the Great Recession officially started in December 2007.

When the model is updated to use current data, the odds increase to 64%.

How long will it last?

Likely longer than the Great Recession of a decade ago, for a number of reasons:

  • to get the economy moving during a recession, officials lower the Fed funds interest rate, making it cheaper for companies and consumers to borrow money and buy stuff.  This jump-starts the economy. But the Fed funds rate is very low already, so there isn’t much room to lower rates and increase demand.
  • if the Fed can’t lower rates, it can try “quantitative easing”, which is a fancy term for the government buying its own debt. This dumps more dollars into the economy, dollars that – hopefully – are spent on new plants, equipment, houses, and washing machines. The problem with “QE” is that its impact is uncertain at best; it’s unclear if it made much of a difference last time around.
  • Consumer debt is really high right now, at 19% of income. When people lose their jobs, they default on their loans and credit card debt, cut back on purchases, and that will further harm retail, construction, durable goods (think washing machines and cars). It can take a long time for people to dig out of these holes, and when they finally do, they are very wary of spending – and absolutely hate debt.

There’s another factor that’s both difficult to measure and, I’d argue, much more troubling.

The trade war, Trump’s on-again-off-again tariffs, the elimination of area-wide trade agreements all make business extremely nervous. Businesses thrive in stability, and don’t when they can’t predict what’s coming.

Columbia, Neato Robotics, Wolverine, John Deere, and Caterpillar are all hamstrung, unable to predict what their supply chain costs will be, how tariffs will affect the price of their products, and what sales will amount to. As a result, they’re hunkering down; Moody’s estimated 300,000 jobs have already been lost due to Trump’s trade war.

We’ve already seen the Chinese shift agricultural purchases from the US to Brazil. This has hammered Deere and Caterpillar, as well as their local dealers, and the manufacturers that make up their supply chains.

What does this mean for you?

Watch indicators very carefully, be objective and rational, and remember that fortune favors the prepared. 

The good news is those who are clear-eyed and thoughtful can do well; for work comp businesses, remember:

  • claims drop, then increase;
  • duration increases;
  • premiums decline as payroll does.

 


Aug
2

You can’t handle the truth about healthcare

Which is this:

We want access to the best doctors and hospitals, low insurance premiums that cover every treatment and drug, doctors making shipload of money, we don’t want any rural hospitals shutting their doors, and we don’t want anyone to pay higher taxes.

Oh, and we want to stuff our faces, ignore doctors’ orders to exercise, smoke, not take care of ourselves and then expect someone else to pay the bills for our diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

There’s a reason politicians aren’t being honest with us – we want to have our cake, eat it too, and not get fat.

But there’s plenty of blame to go around; a huge barrier is the power of the healthcare industry – real healthcare reform means doctors, pharma, device manufacturers, most healthcare investors and the rest of us will make a LOT less money.

Did I mention doctors will make a lot less money?

Yes, Medicare for All would allow all of us to see whatever doctor or we want, and deductibles and copays will be a LOT lower.

But the money has to come from somewhere – which means a tax increase, and lower payments to healthcare providers.

Pretty much everyone in the healthcare industry will earn less, likely a good deal less.

How much less depends on how much we raise from taxes.

Please don’t tell me private insurers have the solution – they don’t.  If they did, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are.

As I’ve reported here, the average family with one member in poor health “pays” about $23,500 for healthcare thru direct payments, insurance premiums, what their employer pays for insurance, and taxes for Medicare, Medicaid, and other government healthcare programs.

The good news is about $5,000 of that would be stripped out; that’s my best guess at how much administrative expense would be eliminated if healthcare providers and payers didn’t have tens of thousands of people on payroll fighting each other.

Oh, those tens of thousands of people will lose their jobs.

What does this mean for you?

Fixing healthcare is going to hurt you and me. A lot. There are NO solutions that get around this.

Anyone who tells you different is lying.

 


Aug
1

Research Roundup

In which I attempt to describe the top takeaways from the latest research and what it may mean for you.

Work comp pharmacy 

WCRI’s latest report on Interstate variations on Dispensing of Opioids is available; free for members, nominal cost for non-members.

  • The volume of opioids dispensed to work comp patients decreased “substantially” in many of the 27 states studied.
  • 17 states saw average MED reductions greater than 30%.
  • BUT – problems persist as MEDs are highest in Delaware and Louisiana, where MEDs per patient are 3 times greater than the median.
  • There’s been a decrease in the percentage of patients prescribed an opioid, with strong evidence that non-opioid medications have been substituted.

Key takeaway

Using your data to highlight problematic states – and regions within states – is critical to understand what’s driving opioid usage among your patients.  The industry has done a great job reducing opioid usage but can make a LOT more progress by figuring out the commonalities among chronic opioid consumers.

NCCI’s just released a report on the impact of formularies on work comp pharmacy, comparing what happened in Arizona and Tennessee after implementation of a closed formulary to similar states that didn’t adopt a formulary. Note the research was based on data from mid-2017.

Findings included:

  • “N” drug utilization dropped more in the two states than in comparable control states
  • The volume of opioid scripts wasn’t affected by Tennessee’s formulary implementation however it appears that there was a decrease in longer acting and likely more potent varieties.
  • Compounds dropped dramatically in TN compared to similar states

Key takeaway  

Opioids have been the biggest driver of formularies; this report’s finding that in these states there was little change in the patients prescribed opioids is revealing.

I’m not a fan of binary formularies; they are the bluntest of instruments. While they may serve an initial good: they reduce the use of drugs that are usually inappropriately prescribed, they are not disease-state and/or patient-specific. Sure, Y/N formularies are easy to use; so’s a bone saw and ether.

We’ve moved beyond bone saws and ether, and need to do the same with formularies.

Future-casting

More thought-provoking work from NCCI focuses on the impact of enhanced vehicle safety systems and workers comp. Quotes of interest include:

  • NCCI data shows that driving-related classifications account for approximately 25% of all WC payroll and about 50% of WC premium.
  • a forward collision warning system coupled with autobrake can reduce front-to-rear crashes with injuries by 56%
  • a 25% to 75% reduction in the frequency of claims related to MVAs [motor vehicle accidents] could yield an annual WC system savings of between $1 billion and $4 billion.

Key takeaways

With all the talk about autonomous vehicles, we may have missed out on a bigger and nearer-term sea change. Mostly-autonomous vehicles won’t likely be common for some time, but many of today’s car models come with lane-following, collision warning, autobrake and other accident-avoidance technology. 

We need to understand the impact of these “interim” technologies on MVAs and associated claims.

Who costs what?

New research from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows who we should be focusing on helping. Just 1.3% of patients rack up almost 1/5th of all medical costs; 5 percent of patients account for half of all costs.

Findings:

  • people with persistently high spending (over the three years) spend 40% more on outpatient services than folks who are high spenders for just one year.
  • persistent high spenders spent a lot on drugs – as in 8 times more than one-year high spenders
  • it appears the one-year high spenders were trauma or other one-time issue patients, as they spent a lot more than persistent high-spender on inpatient services.

Key takeaway – the chronic patients cost the most over the long term – and are also likely to have the most modifiable health conditions.


Jul
30

Crisis management 101

Timing is everything.

Taken together, two seemingly-unrelated things that hit my inbox this morning – CorVel’s quarterly results and the daily alert from Harvard Business Review – provide perspective on how to handle a crisis.

Readers of MCM will recall that I reported last week that CorVel suffered some sort of internet/connectivity problem that arose on Sunday, July 21. It apparently took down much of the company’s customer-facing connections. Subsequently I reported the issue may have been a ransomware attack involving the Ryuk worm. Others followed:

From adjuster.com’s Lonce Lamont’s piece on July 27 (last Friday):

[an anonymous informant stated that] “CorVel management said the Ryuk virus was caught before it was active.  It was found during system upgrades.   But this management story has not made sense, because in that case of the virus being caught before going active, the IT technicians should have just been able to remove it.   However, the CorVel professionals seem to be completely replacing servers, so that indicates they were locked out.”

While I have heard from several internal and external sources, despite several attempts to contact CorVel I have not heard directly from the company. Further, CorVel has not, with the exception of today’s earnings release, released a public statement. I have heard from several CorVel customers that Corvel’s CEO and other personnel contacted customers directly to discuss the issue. Kudos to Corvel for doing this promptly. As of Friday, these customers were told things should be back up today.

Here’s what CorVel said in today’s earnings release:

After the end of the quarter, the Company discovered a security incident which impacted online systems and forced the Company to take those affected systems offline for a period of time. The Company discovered the threat in the early stages of the security incident which allowed for immediate initiation of their incident response plan and aided in the containment and eradication of the threat. Systems were largely offline for the week of July 22nd and at the time of this release [Tue July 30, 2019 6:15 AM] the Company’s systems are incrementally coming back online.

[Side note – sources indicate as of last night scheduling and billing for some ancillary services were back on line; certain bill review functions were not. Suffice it to say that each customer will have been affected differently.]

Which brings me to the HBR piece authored by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter entitled “Managing High Stakes Situations; 5 Lessons from the Pentagon”.

The top Lesson from Secretary Carter was this:

Say something: Feed the beast with whatever you know for sure. The “beast” is the natural demand by news media and others for more facts when there is an appearance of danger or wrong. Leaders facing a crisis need to speak and act quickly even when they don’t know all the facts — it’s part of the job. If you stay silent, you leave a void that may be filled by statements from people who may be well-meaning but ill-informed, or, worse, from rivals or adversaries.

Carter went on to say:

While you must say something, stick to the facts you can verify, however scanty they may be. Don’t speculate or offer guesses that may turn out to be incorrect later… list the key questions you are investigating — What happened? Who was involved? What causes can be identified? What policies and practices apply to the situation? — and provide any specific, accurate answers that are available at the time.

Here’s where I believe CorVel could have done better.

It is highly likely CorVel leadership knew the cause of the problem very soon after it occurred. If the multiple reports about ransomware are correct, the company should have said so.

Be more clear and transparent about the problem and steps being taken to address it. Replacing servers can be a much bigger task than removing a virus from software/databases/applications; acknowledging this up front would have given CorVel some breathing room if it took a bit longer than expected to get everything back up and running.

Make a public statement. Without one, you lose control of the message and likely can’t get it back. Credibility is critical and once damaged is very difficult to regain. This is especially important in our industry: insurance people are genetically risk-averse and highly risk-conscious. “Skeptical” is too tame a word, “Cynical” is probably more accurate.

If and when I hear from Corvel I will update this post.

What does this mean for you?

From Carter:

The pitfalls are to stonewall, deflect, hedge, or use weasel words. But in war, hairsplitting won’t fly. Nor will it in cases when your brand or business is at stake. By speaking plainly and acting directly, you should be able to emerge with your reputation — and that of your organization — intact, and maybe even improved.

 


Jul
19

I apologize.

I screwed up and I apologize.

Here’s what happened.

I failed to explain or provide context in my initial response to an anonymous comment on my post entitled “One Call’s doing great!“.  Here’s the relevant comments:

My initial response to “bill smith”:

“Bill” then sent in a response. I sent an email to the address he provided in the post,; the email bounced back indicating it was a fake email address. I checked the website he listed as his in his initial response; the website is the personal one of an African-American woman; she is dealing with Alzheimer’s. btw Ms Smith is a remarkable woman, handling this awful diagnosis with grace, wit, and elegance.

As “bill” was being disingenuous about who he was, i ignored his response.

Next, he sent in another comment. “bill” was one of several anonymous commenters trolling me (and you), using fake emails and contact info. Getting tired of their antics and disgusted with their cowardice, I responded. The relevant conversation is below.

Here’s where I should have been more clear. I should have posted the actual website address “bill” used in his original post so you, the reader, could see for yourself that what this troll was up to.

In what used to me normal times, this wouldn’t be a big deal as I detailed “bill’s” dishonesty in a subsequent comment.

We aren’t living in “normal” times, and the casual reader may well have interpreted my response as a racist slur. I’m embarrassed by my mistake and apologize for it.

I’ll be more careful in the future. 

As a reminder, here’s my policy on commenters…

This post was triggered by reader D. Gregerson who sent in a comment yesterday about this. I thank D. Gregerson for his comment.

Hey Joe! Great insight as usual. Keep them coming. I do have a question though. As I reviewed the comment section (which has now been closed) I noticed that you replied to someone saying:”unless you are an African American with Alzheimer’s, your website is fake”. Now, one would argue that the statement could be deemed inappropriate and demeaning. Especially considering that the topic at hand was One Call’s financial debacle. Care to expound?