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Archive for May, 2013
Stupid Regulations

I received a postcard in yesterday’s mail.  The first paragraph reads: “The City of Tallahassee’s Office of Cross-Connection Control monitors actual or potential backflow via cross connections with non-approved water sources.  We are committed to the quality of water delivered to our customers, and your drinking water remains clean and free of contaminants [sic]. …
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Healthcare and the Poor: Why Money Works Better than Waiting

What I call health policy orthodoxy is committed to two propositions: (1) The really important health issue for poor people is access to care, and (2) to ensure access, waiting for care is always better than paying for care. In other words, if you have to ration scarce medical resources somehow, rationing by waiting…
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Why Government Shouldn’t Build Things (Part 3)

I had earlier posted about the SNAFUed boondoggle also known as the Eastern span of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge (here and here), but the bad news just keeps rolling in. Yesterday it was revealed that the tower supporting the entire self-anchored suspension bridge rests on bolts that are likely to fail, causing the…
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No Longer Fruitcakes. . .

Barring legal maneuvers, a fringe party becomes part of a country’s mainstream politics for one of two reasons: because it sheds or conceals its extravagant views or because mainstream politics shifts in such a way as to make it relevant. The UK Independence Party, which won an average of 25 percent of the vote…
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Both the Right and Left Go Wrong on Healthcare Prices

Despite the fact that prices in healthcare do not play the same role as they do in other markets, there is a tendency on both the political right and the political left to ignore this fact. The right, for example, issues frequent calls to make prices transparent. A number of proposals would even require…
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What Medical Tourism Tells Us about Our Healthcare System

If you ask a hospital in your neighborhood to give you a package price on a standard surgical procedure, you will probably be turned down. After the suppression of normal market forces for the better part of a century, hospitals are rarely interested in competing on price for patients they are likely to get…
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When Government Gets “Arty,” Hang Onto Your Wallet (and Children)

I have written before about the amazing saga of the new span for the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge, now 24 years and $6.4 billion in the making…with no end in sight. A full account of its background can be found here. The “signature design” never before built and of dubious seismic stability in one…
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Guantanamo: America’s Great Shame

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration crafted a legal theory and detention policy to handle accused terrorists. Nowhere was the policy more conspicuously problematic than at Guantánamo, where a total of 779 detainees were held and where today 166 remain after over ten years. The Bush administration referred to these…
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Why Your Dog’s Knee Surgery Is So Much Cheaper than Yours

Why is the price of a knee replacement for a dog—involving the same technology and the same medical skills that are needed for humans—less than one-sixth the price a typical health insurance company pays for human operations? Why is it less than one-third of what hospitals tell Medicare their cost of doing the procedure…
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Healthcare as a Complex System

Complex systems, by definition, are systems that are too complex for any single individual (or group of individuals) to grasp and understand. What difference does that make? It makes a huge difference. Most of us wouldn’t walk into a chemistry lab and start pouring solutions from one beaker into another—at least if we don’t…
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