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Monday, January 30, 2012

California Hospitals' Unhealthy Dependence on Government

While many Americans are eager for the U.S. Supreme Court this year to decide the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, a federal judge in Los Angeles has just made a misguided decision that cuts right to the root of the government's role in controlling people's access to medical care, whether state legislators or federal judges have the power to decide how much to spend from the state treasury and health care providers' unhealthy and unsustainable dependency on government.

Read my entire op-ed on the case, at the Orange County Register.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Benjamin Rush Society Hosts Leadership Development Reception in New York City

As I announced a few month's ago, I have taken on additional responsibilities as the Executive Director of the Benjamin Rush Society, a national society of medical students that has chapters across the country.  The Society's mission statement is posted here.

Due to the initiative of Deroy Murdock, syndicated columnist and member of the Society's Board of Advisors, we hosted a Leadership Development Reception in New York City on January 19.

A report on the event (including a very amateur video) is posted at the Society's website.

I generally do not write about the Society's activities on this blog, or on my own Facebook or Twitter feed, which are dedicated to my policy research.  Nevertheless, I'd like my readers to know that the Society is growing (and taking up more of my time).

The Society has its own Facebook page (here) and it's own Twitter feed (here). If you'd like to keep abreast of the Society's activities, please consider using those media.  In a few days, I will also be setting up an e-newsletter that I anticipate will be published quarterly.  Once that's up and running, I will let you know so that you can sign up for that if you prefer.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Are the Costs and Benefits of Patents on Prescription Drugs?

On January 23, the Wall Street Journal hosted an interesting debate between Josh Bloom, Phd, of the American Council on Science and Health, and Dr. Else Torreele of the Open Society Foundation. (The link is here, and was free when I last checked. If it disappears behind a wall, the citation is: Josh Bloom & Els Torreele, “Should patents on innovation be extended to encourage innovation?” Wall Street Journal, 1/23/2012.)

Dr. Bloom makes a classical case for patent protection as an effective legal mechanism to incentivize pharmaceutical R&D. And he goes a step further, proposing that more innovative medicines be awarded longer patent protection and less innovative ones shorter patent protection. (It’s an idea with which I’ve noodled, but never figured out how to define the dividing line.)

Dr. Torreele asserts that patents do not prompt innovation, and that the profit motive leads to misdirection of research in favor of profitable markets, thereby neglecting diseases of the developing world.

I vote for Dr. Bloom’s analysis. Read my entire column at Forbes.com: the Apothecary.

If Health Spending is Increasing Slower, Why Are Premiums Increasing Faster?

The short answer: Blame Obamacare.  For the detailed answer, please read this month's Health Policy Prescription here.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Will Idaho Lose Medicaid Cash Unless It Sets Up A Health Benefit Exchange?

That's the strange claim of Governor Butch Otter, facing massive resistance to his plan to impose an Obamacare Health Benefit Exchange in Idaho. An Idaho reporter called me for comment on the governor's curious claim that declining to establish an Exchange could result in Idaho losing 20 percentage points of its federal matching funds, which would be $300 million! The resulting article is posted here.

As a result of the reporter's persistent questioning, the governor's office downgraded the claim to a threat suggested during conference calls with federal bureaucrats.

Look folks, the whole notion is bunk.  There is no connection whatsoever between a state's federal matching funds and whether it establishes a Health Benefits Exchange.  No state should establish a Health Benefits Exchange - period, full stop. I have written a series of articles about exchanges, all available at this link.

I am blogging from a conference in Albuqerque that is sponsored by the Cato Institute.  Tomorrow, I will be giving a presentation to state policy leaders explaining why they need to avoid, obstruct, and resist establishing Health Benefit Exchanges in their states.  Fortunately, other experts, including Michael F. Cannon of the Cato Institute are here; and we all agree that the governor has no legitimate basis for his extreme claim.

Idahoans resisting Governor Otter's irrational urge to establish a Health Benefit Exchange are on the right track.