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OpenMarket: Business and Government

  • Socialized Health Care Feels Like it is ... Socialized!

    September 23, 2008
    Want to nationalize American health care?  Just compare what it's like to be treated in America and in Britain.  Writes F. Brinley Bruton:
    A few weeks ago I found myself curled up in a hospital here in London, my feverish body shaking violently back and forth. The pain in my side and back made it hard to straighten my torso, and I'd thrown up in a friend's car on the way to the hospital.

    The hospital couldn't find an extra hospital bed, so I spent my first night hooked up to an IV on a gurney in the middle of a row of men and women, my sweaty skin sticking to the plastic. A shriveled woman in the bed to my right issued loud and largely unintelligible commands to nobody in particular. A steady flow of patients visited the bathroom right in front of my bed. A shouting match broke out between...

  • Misplaced Priorities on Stem Cell Research

    September 8, 2008
    Sigrid Fry-Revere has a post over at The Hill Blog questioning the merits of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. As her new CEI paper co-written with Molly Elgin, Public Stem Cell Research Funding: Boon or Boondoggle?, points out, "It is impossible to know how successful [stem cell] research will be or whether any individual projects will produce genuine medical treatments, and it is not the place of government to gamble with taxpayers' money.” Over at The Hill Blog, she writes:
    "Furthermore, politicizing stem cell research funding may produce the opposite effect of what stem cell research advocates intend, namely less not more funding and more rather than fewer restriction on the research itself."
    The inherent politicization...
  • Anna Tomalis, R.I.P.

    August 25, 2008
    Last Friday, I attended the funeral of a remarkable 13-year-old girl named Anna Tomalis. For the past three years, Anna had been battling terminal cancer and, more recently, trying to get the Food and Drug Administration to grant a "compassionate use" exemption so she could try an experimental cancer drug now being jointly developed by the pharmaceutical companies ARIAD and Merck. Unfortunately, FDA rarely grants exemptions. If too many exemptions are granted, it would become harder to enroll patients in clinical trials, where they have as much as a 50-50 chance of getting a placebo. Anna was too young and too sick to be admitted to any of the clinical trials, so that wasn't at issue here. But, of course, the whole point of FDA is to keep individuals from making their own decisions about...
  • 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...


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