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Archive for November, 2005

Sunday, November 27th 2005

Give A Mouse A Cookie…

This post was more specific at one time, criticizing a civil suit against a healthcare provider who gave discounts to the insured. However, it is a fine lead into the culture of victimhood and entitlement that surrounds worsening disrespect and annoyance of patients and pundits for the healthcare system.

Advances in technique, knowledge, and technology means I wouldn’t trust a better outcome, if I had a medical condition, at ANY point in the past compared to today. That is across the board, even the indigent.

So what are these complaints or these or these? We can do EVEN better? Certainly if not a word was written in criticism healthcare tomorrow would be better than it is today. Make no mistake, I’m not taking offense at criticism and debate. These are fine tools. However, much of the growing aggitation amongst bloggers, pundits, and columnists over costs and services in healthcare seem to be rooted in a sense of entitlement. An entitlement to what? Perfection? A “reasonable” cost for healthcare? The advances of tomorrow, today? Many of these scathing op eds are too venomous to be taken as legitimate efforts to prompt action or shed light on the situation. They’re the whines of dissappointed expectations, as if once you get a taste of how fast healthcare has improved over the past century suddenly you want more…You Give A Mouse A Cookie And He’ll Want A Glass of Milk.

Help make healthcare even better, because it can be, but every once in a while, please, for the love of God, sit back and marvel how really incredible it is that such and such a drug or such and such a surgery. Marvel that, despite the inequality you denounce, since Shaman’s provided healthcare as a community service, there has not been more parity in healthcare access between rich and poor.

Saturday, November 26th 2005

Median Wages & Healthcare

From an interesting article about the median wage as a metric of growth and productivity:

So why have median wages been stagnating even though productivity began increasing in the 1990s? Two reasons: increasing labour supply, and increasing costs for benefits. While median wages have stagnated, total compensation hasn’t. In essence, workers have been consuming all of their income increases as health care.

Note my complete lack of training on this, and many other, subjects. However, the article seems to make some assumptions, and maybe these are classic macroeconomic things, that I have trouble with. There’s an assumption that increased production necessarily lead to increased median wages for growth.

This may be symantical but shouldn’t the view be more of from the other direction? Income inequality but the belief in the possibility of wage increases are necessary for increases in productivity. I guess my concern is why this post even seems to entertain the idea that decreasing income disparities has inherent benefits.

Making the country as a whole poorer in order to reduce income inequality doesn’t sound to me like a good idea. I realize that many liberal commentators claim that they can do this without sacrificing growth. But I don’t see how.

This post seems to imply IF you could reduce the inequality without making the country poorer it would be worth it. That doesn’t seem clear to me. I’m not exactly sure of the correlation between income inequality and productivity, and I’m sure there’s disagreement over this amongst economists, but there seems to be a point in which income disparity is so great it actually decreases productivity.

Maybe all this anger against healthcare costs is one representation of a decreasing belief in the American Dream; in one’s ability, through increased productivity to better one’s income. Why would this be? I’m just throwing stuff out there but people may respond better to increases in actual wage, which has failed to keep up with productivity increases apparently, rather than total compensation, including increases in healthcare spending on employees.

If this is the case then is there an argument that reducing healthcare costs –> leads to decreased spending on non-income compensation –> leads to an increase in median wages –> leads to increased productivity and better economic growth?

Even if that is the case I don’t think government has a place trying to enforce it. This may be the eventual direction the market leads healthcare, the fear is it will be such a slow reaction that the economy and people’s health will suffer through the transition, but it is still not the place of government to engage in over regulation…such efforts have ways of backfiring.

But more deeply, I don’t see either of these metrics [GDP & Median Wage] as a very good guide to policy, because I don’t believe that there is very much the government can do to influence them, for good or ill.

Saturday, November 26th 2005

Economics of P2P

A study of the economic depression of file sharing music by a Harvard PhD student finds that illegal sharing harms sales of music of the most popular musicians but increases exposure and sales for less successful artists.

File sharing is reducing the probability that any act is able to sell millions of records, and if the success of the mega-star artists is what drives the investment in new acts, it might reduce the incentive to invest in new talent. This is, at its heart, an empirical question which is left to future work.

H/T to Slashdot

Saturday, November 26th 2005

Bacterial Camera

UCSF and UT scientists have published a report in Nature on how they’ve engineered a colony of e. coli bacteria to act as film, so that images appear on it. That is just weird.

Saturday, November 26th 2005

Painful Peace

Too much politics and college football and not enough medicine.

In any case, Power Line has led me to an interesting take on Sharon’s decision to leave the Likud party. Basically the Telegraph opinion piece claims Sharon’s efforts mimics every independence effort in the Western world. Israel is still struggling for her independence, in the same vein, as say the United States did.

As I’ve praised Sharon’s decisions in the past, all with the seeming effort to give peace a chance, I praise this one, to turn his back on the establishment, as well.

Saturday, November 26th 2005

Environmental Health

In China right now 100 tons of benzene compounds in the drinking water of its fourth largest city, Harbin, is causing a mini-crisis. Here is NPR’s report on the crisis as well.

I truly don’t want to focus on public health in my practice. I think I need to do something procedure based. But, public and enviornmental healthcare research and policy, such as this epidemiology fellowship at the CDC, seems really really interesting.

Saturday, November 26th 2005

Rethink a Racist World

A new study refutes previous studies and claims healthcare disparity has no cause in racism or race bias.

I want to believe this. It seems like the ‘logical’ thing. Obviously disparity has much to do with socioeconomic status and indeed geographic location. It is easy to imagine this is enough to explain the problems between black and white healthcare access levels. However the two previous studies I have actually read seem to have pretty infallible methodology…not that I have any training whatsoever in evaluating research design.

Saturday, November 26th 2005

Rose Bowl Sim

I let NCAA 06 have a shot at simulating the Rose Bowl after I tweaked the ratings of both USC and Texas.

You can watch it.

I’m not real pleased with the A.I. involved. Texas stuffs Reggie but Leinart and Dwayne Jarrett go off and Jarrett ends with a couple touchdowns and just around 150 yards recieving.

In any case Vince has a terrible day, throwing three interceptions, the last one with just under two minutes to play. USC picks up one first down, but Texas uses all three of its timeouts and a tough situation arises:

There’s a minute ten left, you’re in the lead, it is third and long, you’re just on your side of the field, and the other team has no timeouts left. Do you throw for the first down or run the ball knowing you’ll probably be stopped short and the other team will get the ball back with about 50 seconds left?

For me the fact that Texas needed a touchdown to win (USC was up by 5) means I run the ball and try to waste the clock. The game had Matt Leinart try to throw for it, and he was picked off. The ball was returned to USC’s 35 setting up Vince Youngs game winning touchdown throw with 3 seconds on the clock. They went for the 2 pointer and failed (as if USC was going to get within field goal range in 3 seconds).

Texas 27, USC 26

Saturday, November 26th 2005

42 Points

Should USC be worried about giving up 42 points and the apparent discrepancies between our defense and Texas’?

Probably not, we’re still doing very well in perhaps Carrol’s most stressed defensive statistical category — turnover margin. The fact we lead the nation in interceptions with this patch work secondary in pretty incredible.

Here’s some comparative figures, and these are all BEFORE Texas’ terrible statistical game against A & M.

Total Offense
USC — #1 — 571 ypg
Texas — #2 — 528 ypg

Scoring Offense
USC — #2 — 48.55 ppg
Texas — #1 — 50.10 ppg

Total Defense
USC — #43 — 351 ypg
Texas — #6 –278 ypg

Scoring Defense
USC — #33 — 31.9 ppg
Texas — #5 — 14.3 ppg

Turnover margin
USC — #1 — +1.91/game (Also, #1 in total interceptions)
Texas — #42 — +.3/game

The statistics deserve to be put into context however. Let’s look at the offensive statistics of the opponents of both Texas and USC.

Opponents Total Offense
Arizona St. #3 — 518 ypg
Texas Tech #4 — 511 ypg
Washington St. #9 — 489 ypg
Notre Dame #10 — 472 ypg
Hawaii #11 — 468 ypg
Oregon #15 — 449 ypg
Texas A & M #16 — 447 ypg
UCLA #17 — 444 ypg
California #29 — 424 ypg
Missouri #30 — 423 ypg
Fresno St. #35 — 412 ypg
Ohio St. #38 — 405 ypg
UL – Lafayette #55 — 383 ypg
Colorado #56 — 380 ypg
Arkansas #61 — 372 ypg
Washington #72 — 358 ypg
Arizona #77 — 348 ypg
Oklahoma St. #82 — 343 ypg
Oklahoma #88 — 334 ypg
Rice #90 — 331 ypg
Baylor #97 — 318 ypg
Stanford #98 — 314 ypg
Kansas #103 — 304 ypg

USC faced 6 Top 20 offenses. Texas faced 2 Top 20 offenses. USC’s opponents average 422 ypg. Texas’ opponents average 351 ypg!

The Pac 10 is an offensive powerhouse. Beyond Texas, the Big 12 couldn’t find offense with the help of an electrified offense finding machine. A better measure is the difference between the two teams total defense and the average opponent offense. USC held their opponents 71 yards under their average. Texas held their opponents 73 yards under their average. Pretty close. Throw in USC’s domination in forcing turnovers (although obviously the Pac 10, throwing the ball more, is more likely to turn it over than the Big 12) and I’ll take our defense versus Texas’ any day of the week.

Tuesday, November 22nd 2005

Take It To The Street…

From Medrants:

Of course this comes off SFgate.com but it certainly makes sense, “decriminalize marijuana and tax the heck out of it.

Sounds good to me.