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OpenMarket: Business and Government

  • Ending the HIV Travel Ban

    August 11, 2008
    The federal government is finally in the process of lifting the travel ban on individuals who are HIV positive. For many years, one of the blogosphere's most vocal critics of the ban has been U.S.-resident Brit Andrew Sullivan. Last month he was already predicting the eventual success of the legislation that ended the ban, known as President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR):
    Obviously, the bigger achievement in PEPFAR is the funding for continued help for those with HIV and AIDS in the developing world - people whose plight is unimaginably worse than mine or so many others trapped by this HIV law. Bush's legacy in this is one for which he is rightly proud. But for...
  • GINA Law Passes, Will Afflict Insurers and Employers

    April 26, 2008
    On April 24, the Senate voted 95-to-0 to pass the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA), which bans insurers and employers from taking genetic information into account.  The Economist blog suggests it could doom private individual insurance in the future, as people who test negative for genetic risk factors for diseases refuse to buy health insurance policies that are priced the same for them as for riskier people who test positive for those genetic risk factors, effectively forcing those with lower risks to subsidize those with higher risks.  Such adverse selection would cause the market for such insurance policies to dry up.  Last year, I...
  • Killing Consumer-Directed Health Care?

    April 26, 2008
    One of the most important recent innovations in health care has been the expansion of consumer-directed care, especially through Health Savings Accounts.  HSAs offer patients greater control over their money and create an incentive for cost-consciousness.  Suddenly people have a reason to shop around and find the best deal for routine care. But Congress is preparing to wreck the system.  At the behest of a congressional staffer-turned lobbyist, the House has voted to impose on HSAs much of the regulatory bureaucracy evident in health insurance.  Reports the Wall Street Journal:
    Democrats have made affordable health care a mainstay of their election agenda, but apparently only if you're willing to get insurance through the government. Witness their stealthy assault on Americans who prefer the...
  • Britain Cares for Animals Better than Humans

    March 10, 2008
    Britain's National Health System is notoriously underfunded. The government makes ends meet by denying service. The elderly don't get transplants. People pull their own teeth. Indeed, Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants more people to treat themselves. But pets need not worry. Brits might be unwilling to care for themselves and their neighbors. But they will spend on their pets. Reports Reuters:
    Forget worming pills and a flea collar -- a trip to the vet in Britain these days could be about heart surgery, joint replacement, chemotherapy or a host of other cutting-edge procedures. Britain is one of the few countries in Europe to offer many of these complex treatments: devoted British pet-owners have fuelled a fast-growing insurance market that helps fund care which would otherwise take a big bite out of a bank account. Research firm Datamonitor has forecast the...
  • Vioxx Class Action Rejected in New Jersey

    September 6, 2007
    The New Jersey Supreme Court just rejected a nationwide class action against Merck over its drug Vioxx, recognizing that it would be inappropriate to apply New Jersey's consumer protection law to claims all across the country. That was correct. State consumer-protection laws vary widely from state to state, meaning that a nationwide consumer class action cannot apply a uniform law. State consumer-protection laws vary widely in their language, and even similarly phrased consumer-protection laws have been interpreted very differently from state to state by different state judiciaries. New Jersey's courts bend over backwards to be pro-plaintiff in employment law and family law, as well as in consumer-protection law. In Taylor v. Metzger (1999), the court allowed a plaintiff to sue for employment...
  • Partnership or Payola?

    August 27, 2007
    Geeks get technology, but they don't always understand economics. John C. Dvorak, one of the brightest journalists in tech, has recognized many of the important economic factors effecting the tech industry, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  But on the latest episode (78) of Cranky Geeks, his weekly video review of tech news, Dvorak and the show's assembled guests lambaste studios for making deals with HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, going so far as to call the deals format payola. Is this a fair charge?
  • Alarming Waste

    August 22, 2007
    Today's Washington Post includes a story on bisphenol A, a chemical that has been used to make flexible, clear plastic products--including baby bottles--since the late 1950s. Numerous studies have found it poses insignificant risks, and no one has ever documented any adverse human health effects. The American Council on Science and Health provides an good overview of the science. Yet activist groups continue to hype the issue. In addition, a panel put together by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Health, says...
  • FDA Tobacco Regulation Bill: A Trojan Horse?

    August 20, 2007
    PR Watch has an interesting story on the cynical baptist-bootlegger alliance behind the bill to give the FDA oversight over the tobacco industry, which would reduce competition in the tobacco industry, while making it harder to market reduced-risk tobacco products to smokers.
  • Drug lag -- precaution or pipelines?

    August 16, 2007

    According to a CNN Money article, a report released yesterday shows that the FDA has been cracking down on new drug approvals. Pharmaceutical companies this year through July had only 38 new drugs approved, down from 55 for the same period last year. The report was from James Kumpel, health care analyst for Friedman, Billings, Ramsey.

    Though some say that's occurring because the pharmaceutical companies' pipelines are drying up, others attribute the slowing down of approvals on the FDA's fear of approving drugs with some side effects, after recent highly publicized concerns with drugs on the market:

    But Fran Hawthorne, author of "Inside the FDA," argues that there's nothing new about Big Pharma's lack of innovation. She said the drug approval slowdown is "far...
  • No Excuse for Resistance to DDT

    August 9, 2007

    Anti-DDT activists in the environmental movement often suggest we should stop using this chemical to save people from malaria and other diseases because mosquitoes will eventually develop resistance to the substance. However, a study published in the journal PloS Online explains why such arguments make no sense.

    The study demonstrates that in addition to still being the most affordable product, DDT is likely the most effective over the long term because it repels most mosquitoes—keeping them from ever entering homes. These effects are critical for a couple reasons. First, mosquitoes are most active in transmitting disease at night as people sleep, so keeping these insects out of homes can reduce disease rates significantly. Second, DDT's repellency effects remain...

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