TBT: When Poetry Sang the 3000's Story
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A Forced Migration, One That's Unfortunate

ImagesThis month in the US includes more than the usual ration of Christmas carols and holiday office parties. This is the first month when we US citizens are renewing our healthcare, all of us at once. It's Open Enrollment! According to my insurance agent, everybody's got to be insured by the end of the month. I'm one of the people who's having an experience like 3000 users got in 2001. Blue Cross is migrating me away from a product that it no longer wants to sell.

The parallels, so far, are pretty close. There was nothing that stopped working with my health plan. Like HP, Blue Cross simply stopped selling it because it wasn't making the vendor enough profit. The plan was not removed because of the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare). But then, the HP 3000 was not removed because of the HP merger with Compaq. These were simply business decisions, by HP and by Blue Cross of Texas.

Business decisions are taken as a result of events that create situations. Insurers must protect profits, in the same way that HP had to protect its ability to grow after it absorbed $25 billion of Compaq. Customers don't get consulted about discontinuing products.

Much like the experience of the 3000 community with the 2001 migration march, my journey to a new plan will trigger more expense, and let Blue Cross earn more by doing less. I'll see about a 20 percent increase in recurring costs -- which might look cheap compared to how much the 3000 migration has cost the companies being forced to move.

There's a difference that's important, though. The active event that's changed the sale of insurance in America comes with federal rules. It now costs at least $395 a year to homestead, as it were, with no insurance at all. That's a fine that can rise as high as 2 percent of your gross income. A similar bill for a company making $5 million yearly in profit would be $100,000. That would be money spent just to stay on a system which the vendor stopped making or supporting.

Thankfully, there's no such fine for homesteading. There's a bill if a site simply stops support of all kind, however. Every computer system breaks down sooner or later, because nothing is built to never break. A company's insurance on its computer operations is support. The 3000 community got an advantage over those of us who've seen their products discontinued. System support got less costly.

Is a computer system as essential as healthcare? It depends who you ask. Companies can get ill enough to die, too. The continued health of information services is essential to good business practices. There's no guarantee that vendor-based computer support, or even R&D, will keep a company fiscally healthy. It goes a long way when a vendor can deliver new hardware, when older systems can get replacement parts (like artificial hips or shoulders), or when the medicine of improved software and cleansed data remain available.

I'm not happy about seeing my product canceled, and just like HP 3000 customers, I know I need a replacement product. Like 3000 sites, I'll be paying for more than one system, during this month's changeover. I wish I could say that I saw other companies get a chance at affordable computing during the prior decade because HP canceled the 3000 product. I didn't see that. It might have looked like seeing a struggling startup get a computer system built upon Windows and driven by HP's ProLiant hardware. That's a Compaq product that has done very well in the 12 years since the merger.

In contrast, I know there are families who are now getting insurance premium help of some kind. They make less than $62,000 for a family of two, and that number gets higher as the family gets bigger. At some level, their insurance product might be free. There's nothing like that in the computer marketplace.

The phrase "taking a bullet" comes to mind while I look at my insurance costs for the coming year. It's a small bullet. Your community took a bigger one, and some companies didn't survive. That's the cost of some discontinued products. Mine won't kill me.

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