Monday, March 24, 2008

How might we get more health per dollar spent on health care? It's not a matter of private insurance vs. single-payer:
Tyler Cowan alerted me to this NBER Working Paper by Sherry Glied. (Unfortunately, the full report is gated.) Based on an analysis of data from 20 developed countries, she concludes:

1. There is no general relationship between the way in which countries pay for health care and their ability to control costs. Public v. private financing, general revenue v. payroll taxes, third-party v. out-of-pocket spending - nothing seems to matter very much....
So, what to do? I'd bet Arnold Kling has the right idea:
Our camp believes that the United States could reduce health care spending substantially without hurting health care outcomes. However, the path to getting there involves lots of research into the efficacy of various procedures as well as changes in behavior (Orszag refers to physician norms as an example).

The other camp, which includes Jacob Hacker writing in today's Washington Post, says that all you have to do is socialize medicine and magically costs will come down. That is unlikely.
My guess is that if there was a government agency that did research into health-care cost-effectiveness and then produced guidelines, then this would go a long way in changing physician norms. And oh, change is needed.
Prohibition didn't work for alcohol, so let's try it for candy!
Schools have been individually banning junk-food sales for years, and enforcement was increased in 2005 when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger passed legislation to combat childhood obesity, according to the office of the governor.
Since then, schools have slowly adjusted by offering more healthy alternatives, such as baked chips and granola bars.
But Nason said that he sees just as much candy and soda as ever, because students still bring it from home — for lunch, and to turn a profit.
“I think it’s original purpose was pretty good, but it doesn’t seem to be making that big of a difference,” said teacher Rolayne Allen of the junk-food ban.
Teachers are instructed to confiscate candy when kids have it in class, Nason said, and the punishment for making sales can be detention.
But confiscating candy all the time can be challenging, Allen said, especially around the holidays when students bring more of it to school.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Star Trek, The Original Series. Free. There are also some Twilight Zone seasons. With Firefox & Adblock, I have yet to even see an an advertisement. I don't know how the economics works out, but I won't let that get in the way of my enjoyment.

Update (3/18/8): I just saw an ad. Perhaps the first few are free. Perhaps I should delete some cookies...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Daylight Saving Timedoes not save energy for Indiana homeowners. As the study's author says, "there are other reasons we might want daylight saving time ... like increased leisure activities. Some people argue it is better for health and it actually stimulates economic growth." So, I can understand why some people like DST. However, I (and most people I know) have only complaints. Given the chance, I'd vote to abolish it.
Madison has already had more snow this winter than ever previously recorded. (Did I mention we've also had an ice quake?) Now I hear some folks hoping we'll surpass the magic number of 100 inches. I love snow, except I don't like driving through it. So, I'm with them: let's go for a hundred! But please, can it wait until after I drive to a conference this weekend?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

I've disbelieved predictions of the coming Northwest Passage, until I saw this:
In order to navigate these opening sea-lanes and transport the Arctic's oil and natural gas, the world's shipyards are already building ice-capable ships. The private sector is investing billions of dollars in a fleet of Arctic tankers. In 2005, there were 262 ice-class ships in service worldwide and 234 more on order. The oil and gas markets are driving the development of cutting-edge technology and the construction of new types of ships, such as double-acting tankers, which can steam bow first through open water and then turn around and proceed stern first to smash through ice. These new ships can sail unhindered to the Arctic's burgeoning oil and gas fields without the aid of icebreakers. Such breakthroughs are revolutionizing Arctic shipping and turning what were once commercially unviable projects into booming businesses.

Friday, March 07, 2008

My alma mater will be tuition-free for families earning less than $75,000 a year. I see this as a positive change. The bottom line is that MIT is competing for top students with other schools that are also eliminating tuition for many students. MIT is such a great place to be precisely because it has an extremely high concentration of top scientific minds among both its faculty and its students. It's worth the foregone tuition to ensure that continues.