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Leela's Musings
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3rd-Jul-2013 04:22 pm - Health Care Musings
I think a lot about health insurance because on more than one occasion I had to shop for coverage on the individual market.

I don't necessarily support government provided health care or a fully privatized market. What I do support is a society where health insurance is a feasible option for everyone. And, yup, "feasible option for everyone" is where the sticky-gray-area is. But I think there are some basic principles that can underpin a constructive debate about health insurance. So when the debate gets heated, I stop to ask which principle are we arguing over.

Before I get to the principles, let me start with two basic questions:

  1. How does insurance work? A large group of customers buys protection each year. In any given year just a small portion of customers needs to claim the protection. Car insurance or flood insurance is a good example.

  2. How much to charge for insurance? Typically individuals with a higher risk pay more. For example, reckless drivers pay more. In some instances, insurance companies will assess the risk for larger categories, like a geographic area instead of individual characteristics.

Basic principles for an insurance system

1. Build an insurance program that enrolls a large group of individuals. Large enough so the number of accidents (or claim-inducing-events) in a given year is a small portion of the membership.

2. Minimize the uninsurable cases. Already pregnant women find it nearly impossible to purchase health insurance because insurance companies typically do not want to accept a known high-cost case, especially since the person has not paid into the system. One extreme solution is to require health insurance be purchased at birth.

3. Make payments transparent. Whether it is employer provided insurance or medicare, individuals should be cost sensitive. Why? because most people will consume more than is needed if they don't have to pay for it.

4. Maximize the presence of "trustworthy" insurance sellers. Salespeople are often most interested in making a sale. So things that protect the consumer will minimize fraud/dishonesty (on the part of insurance sellers). This is one advantage of employer provided insurance. Employers negotiate with insurers to get the best deal for their company.

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25th-Oct-2012 12:18 pm - Thank you comrades
Brad DeLong reflects on Stalingrad:

The soldiers of the Red Army, and the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union who armed and fed them, allowed their dictatorial masters to commit crimes – and committed crimes themselves. But these crimes fall short by an order of magnitude of the great service to humanity – and especially to western European humanity – that they gave in the rubble along the Volga River 70 years ago this fall.

We are the heirs to their accomplishments. We are their debtors. And we cannot repay what we owe to them. We can only remember it.

But how many NATO leaders or European Union presidents and prime ministers have ever taken the time to visit the battle site, and perhaps lay a wreath to those whose sacrifice saved their civilization?
12th-Jul-2012 01:59 pm - Bo Xilai and China
I often quote Justin Raimundo. He is often over dramatic, but his depth and breadth of analysis is what interests me. He offers an interesting perspective on the Bo Xilai "scandal" in China.

He speculates that the scandal is largely exagerated by politicians to discredit Bo Xilai because he fights to eliminate corrupt politicians.

To quote Justin: "His crackdown on China’s rampant gangster underworld — often linked to party officials — inspired widespread support. He stoked all those fires the central party leadership most fears — Maoism, nationalism, and growing economic inequality. That is why he had to go:...."
*A good summary fo the ruling is here.

*On the politics of it: I think Chief Justice Roberts rose above politics in his ruling. Good for him, more importantly good for the U.S.

*On the media's reportig of it: FOX and CNN first reported the ruling incorrectly, oh and with such typically hype and drama. It was awful and hilarious all at once. A reminder of why I gave up TV news long, long ago. Or wait a reminder of the hilarious comedy I am missing. I learned about the mistake here
24th-Feb-2012 02:48 pm - Worth quoting
Justin Raimondo is worth quoting: "The problem is that we’ve become a nation of babies: total narcissists who believe the world not only revolves around us, but that the laws of economics and of common sense itself are subject to our whims. In such a world, one can indeed have an empire and a welfare state and never have to worry when the bills come due – because, after all, babies don’t pay bills, do they?"

The full essay is here:http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2012/02/23/the-santorum-threat/

30th-Sep-2011 10:13 pm - Pondering Palestine
Two thoughtful essays on Palestine's "statehood" efforts in the United Nations.

18th-Mar-2011 01:31 pm - Creative science
Well I suppose much of science is creative, but this description of a more efficient desalination method that combines the existing methods is very clever in its simplicity.
8th-Mar-2011 08:33 pm - Saudi Arabia
A short piece on Saudia Arabia describes generous social benefits and monarch rule. Not too much new information, but a reminder of things there given all recent the upheaval experienced in the region.
7th-Mar-2011 11:23 pm - USA, inc.
I liked this essay because of how it frames the US debt problem: as though the country is a company facing financial distress. At the same time, a few things bothered me:

1. Figure 6 should include defense spending, which is the third largest government expenditure and has certainly increased in recent years.

2. The essay and Figure 9 implies that increased government entitlements may influence the falling personal savings rate. This is a huge unsubstantiated leap. I am sure easy credit can explain much more of the increase. Also any real trend should be age-adjusted since the retired population (who save less) has also increased over time.

3. The essay also implies that spending more on education will help address U.S. students low rankings on an international math, science, and reading test. Throwing more money at education will not necessarily improve it. The countries that scored the highest on the test, spent LESS (per student) than the US on education,as illustrated here.

I am convinced that we can improve education without throwing more money at it.
21st-Feb-2011 10:19 pm - Egypt
Military industrial complex, Egyptian style.
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