Monthly Archives: January 2010

Health Reform = Job Creation

A new report from the Center for American Progress, co-authored by David Cutler and Neeraj Sood, finds that health care reform has enormous potential to create more jobs in this country. You’ll have to read the report if you want all the details, but the basics are these:

  • Employers pay a substantial amount for employees’ health insurance premiums
  • If health reform reduces premiums, employers can increase salaries or hire more employees

Those basic assumptions, when combined with a sizable amount of historical and projected data point to the conclusion that the health care reform currently being considered by Congress has the potential to:

  • Create 250,000 new jobs under fairly conservative estimates
  • Create 400,000 new jobs using less conservative estimates

Either way, the point is this: Health care reform does more than reform the health care system. It also takes the brakes off of an economy that has been grinding to an inevitable halt.

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Posted by on January 29, 2010 in Uncategorized


Health Care and Automotive Repair

A couple of weeks ago, an article appeared in the New York Times on the subject of health care reform–with a Colorado-centric focus. The article was written by Robert Pear, who’s as good as they come in the world of health care journalism. As he usually does, Pear nails the policy details, but his opening made me chuckle. He cites Donny Sefer, the manager of an auto repair shop in Denver as being disillusioned with health care reform. Apparently, Sefer wanted Congress to figure out the underlying problem of rising health care costs and do something to fix it. That’s sensible. But Sefer’s also quoted saying “I am an automotive diagnostician. We look for the root cause of problems. If we treat the symptoms, the problem always comes back. With health care, we are not treating the root cause: Why does it cost so much?”

It was the question he posed at the end that I wanted to turn back on him. “Mr. Sefer, why does automotive care cost so much?” It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is that, with the possible exception of urban areas with efficient public transportation systems, we are dependent on our automobiles. Consequently, it’s a problem when they cease to work as they should. Mechanics possess the skills to get them working again in short order. We don’t know if what they did was actually anywhere near as complicated as the price we are willing to pay might suggest. Many of us would happily pay a couple of hundred bucks to our local mechanic if they told us “Well, the problem was your flim-flam valve was glopped up, so we had to adjust the tension on the thingamabob belt and replace your do-hickey regulator.” As long as she’s running again, we’re happy. Now for those of you who know what an idle air control motor is, maybe you drive a harder bargain, but that’s not typical.

Our lack of information as consumers puts us at a pretty big disadvantage when we need something important to us to be restored to working order. And that’s cars, folks. The principles at work in the mechanic-car owner relationship are only exacerbated in the context of health care. The reason why is obvious: Worst-case scenario, you can’t go down to the dealership and pick up another you. If things are serious enough–say it feels like there’s an elephant sitting on your chest–you’ll be pretty quick to agree to just about anything without even taken cost into consideration. It’s the “shopping” equivalent of going “all in.” There’s no other purchasing decision I can think of that works like that.

So, I was surprised that Mr. Seyfer, a mechanic, would wonder why health care costs are so high. He’s in as good a position as anyone to understand the precise forces at work. We need more information as consumers, for a start. Of course, that’s just for a start. There’s much else that has to happen to get prices, and thus, costs, brought under control, but I just wanted to knock down the analogy that Robert Pear set up so nicely for me.

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Posted by on January 28, 2010 in Uncategorized


SOTU Wrap-Up

The State of the Union address just concluded. I have to say that I thought it was sobering, balanced, and one of the best SOTUs I’ve ever witnessed. But I’m a health care guy, so where did Obama fall on that topic? A new type of word cloud (with frequencies shown in parentheses) shows that health reform–while stressed–took a big backseat to the economy and job creation. The President’s key point, however, that we must persevere, is one I wholeheartedly second.

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Feel free to modify as long as you keep this notice.

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This code and its rendered image are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. (

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created at

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Posted by on January 28, 2010 in Uncategorized


Chapel Hill Resident Guest of Michelle Obama Tonight

The State of the Union is being delivered tonight, and up in the First Lady’s box to watch President Obama deliver the address will be one of Chapel Hill’s own, Ping Fu. Here’s her biography as released by the White House Press Office. Congrats, Ping!

Ping Fu (Chapel Hill, NC)

Ping Fu co-founded Geomagic, a company which pioneers technologies that fundamentally change the way products are designed, engineered and manufactured around the world from automobiles to medical devices. Geomagic, under her leadership, has been an active participant in the SBA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Fu has led Geomagic to deliver broad-based economic impact to the US economy with tangible results – the company tripled its customer base and employment while achieving high growth and profitability. As such, the NSF awarded Geomagic the prestigious Tibbetts Award for exemplifying the very best in SBIR.

Fu has more than 25 years of software industry experience in database, internet technology, and visual computing. Before Geomagic, she was the Director of Visualization at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and is also, actively involved in promoting entrepreneurship and women in mathematics and sciences.

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Posted by on January 27, 2010 in Uncategorized


Dear Senate, Please Read This

Some of the biggest names in the world of health reform–people who know what they’re talking about–just sent this letter out to the Senate leadership last night. It mirrors one they sent to the House just a few days ago.

“Dear Senators Reid, Baucus, and Harkin:

For nearly three-quarters of a century, Presidents and Congressional
leaders have tried to enact legislation that would make health care
accessible to Americans. Although pieces of this dream have been
realized–health care for the elderly, the disabled, and children in
low-income families–universal coverage itself has proved beyond

We are now on the cusp of realizing this goal. Both houses of Congress
have adopted legislation that would provide health coverage to tens of
millions of Americans, begin to control health care costs that
seriously threaten our economy, and improve the quality of health care
for every American. These bills are imperfect. Yet they represent a
huge step forward in creating a more humane, effective, and
sustainable health care system for every American.

We have come further than we have ever come before. While the House
and Senate bills differ on specific points, they are built on the same
framework and common elements–eliminating health status underwriting
and insurance abuses, creating functioning insurance markets, offering
affordability credits to those who cannot afford health insurance,
requiring that all Americans act responsibly and purchase health
insurance if they are able to do so, expanding Medicaid to cover all
poor Americans, reforming Medicare payment to encourage quality and
control costs, strengthening the primary care workforce, and
encouraging prevention and wellness.

Key differences between the bills, such as the scope of the tax on
high-cost plans and the allocation of premium subsidies, should be
repaired through the reconciliation process. Key elements of this
repair enjoy broad support in both houses. Other discrepancies between
the House and Senate bills can be addressed through other means.

Last Friday, we urged the House to adopt the Senate-passed bill along
with improvements that can be immediately achieved through
reconciliation. We urge the Senate to join the House in this effort,
and we urge the President to sign both bills.

With the loss of Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat, Democrats no longer
enjoy a filibuster-proof Senate majority, though they still enjoy the
largest Senate majority any party has achieved in the past generation.
The loss of this one vote does not require Congress or the President
to abandon Senator Kennedy’s life work of health care reform. A year
of political infighting, misleading debates about death panels and
socialized medicine, and sheer inaction has left Americans exhausted,
confused, and disgruntled. Americans are also bearing the severe
consequences of deep recession and unemployment. Still, a majority of
Americans support health reform, and all Americans need it.

If Congress abandons this effort at this critical moment, that will
leave millions more Americans to become uninsured in the coming years
as health care becomes ever less affordable. Abandoning health care
reform–the signature political issue of this administration–would
send a message that Democrats are incapable of governing and lead to
massive losses in the 2010 election, possibly even in 2012. Such a
retreat would also abandon the chance to achieve reforms that millions
of Americans across the political spectrum desperately need in these
difficult times. Now is the moment for calm and resolute leadership,
pressing on toward the goal now within sight.

Some have proposed dividing the bill or starting anew with
negotiations to produce a less comprehensive bill. From the
perspective of both politics and policy, we do not believe this is a
feasible option. We doubt that the American public would welcome more
months of partisan wrangling and debate. We doubt that the final
product would match what has already been achieved. Indeed we doubt
that any bill would reach the President’s desk should congressional
leaders pursue this misguided course.

We, the signatories of this letter, come from a variety of different
perspectives. Some of us are long-standing advocates of progressive
causes. Some of us are nonpartisan or identify as political

From these differing perspectives, we agree on one thing: the current
choice is clear. The Senate must work with the House in agreeing on
legislation that is acceptable to both houses of Congress insofar as
this is possible within the reconciliation process and then both
houses must adopt the final reconciliation legislation.

Henry Aaron, Brookings
Ronald Andersen, UCLA
Gerard Anderson, Johns Hopkins
Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Ronald Bayer, Columbia University
Anna Burger, Secretary-Treasurers, SEIU
David Cutler, Harvard University
Stephen Davidson, Boston University
Linda Degutis, Yale University
Judy Feder, Georgetown University
Eric Feldman, University of Pennsylvania
Brian R. Flay, Oregon State University
David Grande, University of Pennsylvania
Thomas Greaney, Saint Louis University
Colleen Grogan, University of Chicago
Jonathan Gruber, MIT
Jacob Hacker, Yale University
Mark Hall, Wake Forest University
Jill Horwitz, University of Michigan
Jim House, University of Michigan
Peter Jacobson, University of Michigan
Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, Washington and Lee (organizer)
Theodore Joyce, CUNY
George Kaplan, University of Michigan
Jerome Karabel, University of California, Berkeley
Mark A.R. Kleiman, UCLA
Paula Lantz, Univesity of Michigan
Theodore Marmor, Yale University
Lynda Martin-McCormick, NSCLC
Michael Millenson, Northwestern University
James Morone, Brown University
Paul Nathanson, NSCLC
Len Nichols, New America Foundation
Jon Oberlander, University of North Carolina
Mark A. Peterson, UCLA
Harold Pollack, University of Chicago (organizer)
Karen Pollitz, Georgetown University
Daniel Polsky, University of Pennsylvania
Sara Rosenbaum, George Washington University
Meredith Rosenthal, Harvard University
Lainie Friedman Ross, University of Chicago
William Sage, University of Texas, Austin
Theda Skocpol, Harvard University
Donald H. Taylor, Duke University
William Terry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
James A. Tulsky, Duke University
Alexander C. Wagenaar, University of Florida
Joseph White, Case Western Reserve University
Celia Wcislo, 1199-United Healthcare Workers East, SEIU”

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Posted by on January 27, 2010 in Uncategorized


The Truth Behind Serving Sizes

First, a humorous take on the subject by one of my favorites, Brian Regan:
Brian Regan – Serving Size
Joke of the Day Stand-Up Comedy Free Online Games

Then, a link to the truth behind how food serving sizes are actually determined. It’s probably a lot more complicated and ridiculous than you’d think.

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Posted by on January 27, 2010 in Uncategorized


Chart Wars!

This is absolutely fantastic…

That being said, you should give these health care charts a look.

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Posted by on January 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

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