Possible Insight

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

The Climate or the Uninsured?

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Declan McCullagh of CBSNews reports that a Department of Treasury analysis released under the Freedom of Information Act estimates that a cap and trade program would raise $100B to $200B a year in taxes. Those taxes come from us one way or another. Recall that my estimate of the cost to cover the uninsured is about 2/3rds of that amount ($63B to $126B).

So we have a fortuitous illustration of the tradeoffs we have to make.  There are two issues, priorities and effectiveness. It’s not that I don’t think there is some merit to reducing CO2 emissions.  Rather, I think there are other problems that are higher priority with solutions that are more likely to be effective.  Health care for the poor is one of those.  I’m willing to pay an extra $1000/year to solve health care for the poor.  I’m not willing to pay an extra $1500/year on top of that to address global warming.

Written by Kevin

September 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Two Important Links

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If you do nothing else intellectual this Sunday, do these two things:

(1) Read Tyler Cowen’s NYTimes column on how the bestowing of political favors was at the heart of the financial crisis and how we’re about to make the same mistake with health care.

(2) Remember Norman Borlaug.  He is the scientist who led the “Green Revolution“.  In my opinion, he would be a strong candidate for the man who did the most good for the most people in the second half of the 20th Century.  And the mainstream media will not make nearly a big enough deal of his death at 95 compared to that of Ted Kennedy.

Written by Kevin

September 13, 2009 at 10:51 am

Fixing Health Care I: The Uninsured

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Yes, I’ve decided to wade into the health care waters again.  One of the problems with the current debate is that it confounds several distinct problems.  So I’m planning to briefly address each one individually in the hopes of achieving some clarity.  First up, the uninsured.

Most of us don’t want people to die simply because they can’t afford basic health care.  So I ran the numbers on what it would cost to solve just this problem.  The most cost effective approach I know of is a major medical plan plus a health savings account (HSA).  According to this Forrester analysis of eHealthInsurance data, the average annual cost of an individual major medical plan in 2007 was $1896.

Premiums have obviously gone up since 2007.  However, let’s be optimistic and assume two points of cost savings: having a very large group and following my recommendation of not using insurance for primary care.  Let’s put the optimistic annual premium estimate at $1500.  Of course, we’re talking about poor people so a no-primary-care major medical plan isn’t enough.  We’ll also give them a $300 per year HSA allowance, enough to cover a couple of office visits and some generic drugs plus save up some to pay for a hospital stay.  Not that generous, but I’m trying to figure out the minimum cost.  Total cost per person: $1800/year.

So how many uninsured are there?  Well, estimates vary.  But the Census Bureau released a pretty detailed report in 2007.  Looking at Table 6 on page 22, we see that there were just over 28,000 uninsured with household incomes below $50K.  Now, if we offered a government program means tested to $50K, we’d probably get some  people dropping their private insurance for the government insurance.  I think only a 25% cross-over would be optimistic.  So we have to cover a minimum of 35,000 people at $1800/year.  Total cost: $63B/year.

Call it an even $100B due to my optimistic estimates.  It will probably add close to $1000/year to my tax bill.  I’m willing to pay that.  So let’s just do it and then move on to the next problem.

Written by Kevin

September 8, 2009 at 12:32 pm

More Environmental Tradeoffs

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The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards will rise from 27.5 mpg to 35 mpg from now until 2020. That should decrease any pollutant associated with burning fossils fuels.  All good, right?  Wrong.

There is a trade off in safety.  You are much more likely to die in a small car. The WSJ Online reports on a recent Insurance Insititute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study that shows  small cars like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris fair very poorly in two-car frontal offset crash tests against the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. This is against mid-sized cars from the same manufacturer, so a reasonable comparison.

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Written by Kevin

April 18, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Supplementation Report: Quercetin

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I’ve been taking quercetin for a few months now and thought I’d report on my experience. As you can see from the Wikipedia link, quercetin is believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.  This is not why I’m taking it.

Rather, I had a record number of colds this season.  4 major ones from Thanksgiving to mid-Feb.  I have been training unusually hard for the last year and an increased incidence of upper respiratory infections (URIs) is a known problem for endurance athletes. A little research turned up this article where quercetin reduced the incidence of URIs in marathoners.

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Written by Kevin

April 16, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Health

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If I Were In Charge, Health Care Edition

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I have no desire to be in charge. I’d have to suffer too many fools and forego too much sleep. But I take comfort from knowing that, if I were in charge, I could confidently propose solutions to many of the common problems politicians hem and haw about.  It’s not just that I’m smarter and better trained than most of them, I simply wouldn’t care about getting re-elected.  So the obvious solutions that piss people off would be fine with me.

Unfortunately, health care is not one of these problems.  The solution really isn’t obvious. So I’ve been thinking about it lately.  I’ve got some preliminary ideas that I’d like to share. But be nice. I’m not saying these are the answers. They are just the best out-of-the-box thinking I’ve been able to come up with so far.

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Written by Kevin

April 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Posted in Economics, Health

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