Institutionalized Corruption: Surprise Medical Billing

I have seen lots of these odd ads about “surprise medical billing” on TV.   I couldn’t figure out the angle and couldn’t find the source of the ads.  Seems a private equity firm invested in a company that farms our ER docs wants to be able to charge, well, whatever they want.  Basically a huge media effort to allow a financial firm to screw sick Americans.

Yesterday this came out. In an exceedingly rare show of bipartisanship, everyone agreed that this was wrong, and for a brief moment it looked like our elected officials would do  the right thing and protect American consumers from the worst sorts of predators.  Alas, it was not to be.  From Common Dreams:

Top Dem Accused of Putting Private Equity Before Sick and Poor by Killing Effort to End ‘Devastating’ Surprise Medical Bills

One critic said Rep. Richard Neal, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is “actively helping private equity-owned doctor groups rip off and destroy the lives of people at their most vulnerable.”

 

Baby It’s Hot Outside

I was going to ignore the article below, even though I enjoy Paul Krugman’s writing.  He isn’t always right and I don’t always agree with him, but he does seem to be a person willing to put in the hard work to understand a complicated world and then to explain it to people.

I read a few paragraphs and figured it was a sort of “soft” hatchet piece (this the Atlantic, after all) and I was curious who the author was.  Never heard of this Sebastian Mallaby.  Well, he is son of Sir Christopher Mallaby, educated at Oxford and Eton and husband of the editor of Economist magazine.  He also wrote a biography of Alan Greenspan. I suspect he doesn’t share my view of Greenspan as the guy who almost single handedly blew a massive real estate bubble and crashed the world economy in 2008.  But he does have some other nice looking articles and books, particularly one on poverty in America.

But the article below basically chides Krugman for speculating on the motives of politicians (climate change denier a are paid off by big oil) and for, well, not being nicer to people clearly not speaking the truth.  Because, hey, not all Republicans are climate deniers and by being mean to the ones that are, you risk not being able to convince the others of your point.

I dunno.  It all sounds so nice and genteel.   I suppose Mr Mallaby hasn’t watched US cable news lately.  Or kept track of the crazy levels of “post-truth” coming from (ok, let’s name them) Conservatives.  I see the Brits have gotten into the act recently with Boris Johnson telling some Whoppers to gain power (It’s not just Boris Johnson’s lying. It’s that the media let him get away with it).

The US is still a few years ahead of the UK, politically.  I wish Mr Mallaby and the UK well on their path toward the “post-truth” political future.

Cool It, Krugman

The self-sabotaging rage of the New York Times columnist

 

Crony Capitalism in the Philippines

I grew up in South Louisiana, where the legacy of Huey Long populism still casts a shadow.  So perhaps I’m not as surprised at the connections between corruption and a certain type  of populism.  Reform is always possible but it never seems to happen in these situations.  The promise to take down the corrupt establishment seems to usually just result in a replacement of the old corrupt with the new corrupt.  A good article from Nikkei Asian Review on the state of things in Duterte’s Philippines.

Crony capital: How Duterte embraced the oligarchs

President Rodrigo Duterte promised to destroy the Philippines’ elite. Instead, he chose his own

 

US Life Expectancy

Another economist I like reading.  I am forever grateful for Paul Krugmans writings before, during and after the 2008 financial crisis.  While he is an unapologetic leftie, he is also very data oriented, which maybe makes you a liberal these days.  His recent article takes on falling life expectancy in the US, as a red state / blue state phenomenon.

Ok, clearly just voting one way or another shouldn’t change a regions (or an individuals) life expectancy, but there is something going on here.  To his credit Krugman doesn’t dive into the whys and wherefores.  It could be something as simple as lack of hospitals in rural America.  Or just the idea that poverty in America is bad for your health.  I would like to see this correlated maybe to wealth / income rather that chunked into states.

Healthcare Costs in America

An article in Washington Post from Paul, — sorry, Robert Samuelson.  Lots of good facts, but published under “Opinion”, as it probably should be.  I like Samuelson’s articles but I’m not so sure about some of his conclusions.  For instance, expensive healthcare is great for the people that work in that field.  He also doesn’t say much about the causes or possible solutions. I have to add, I used to confuse Robert Samuelson with Nobel prize winning economist Paul Samuelson. I guess I still do sometimes.  Anyway, the upshot is that Americans are spending more and more on healthcare, and that isn’t counted in lots of economic stats.  It would seem to be a very large chunk of middle class decline in the last few decades.  Not then only cause, though.

Yes, Americans are feeling the squeeze. It’s coming from health care.