The Beacon: Blog of Independent Institute

Average Wait Time to See a Doctor up 30 Percent in Three Years
Friday March 24, 2017 | John R. Graham

Merritt Hawkins, a physician-staffing firm, has published its periodic survey of waiting times for appointments with physicians in 30 metropolitan markets. The results: Average new patient physician appointment wait times have increased significantly. The average wait time for a physician appointment for the 15 large metro markets surveyed is 24.1 days, up 30% from...
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Is a National Government Necessary for National Defense?
Thursday March 23, 2017 | Robert Higgs

Gordon Tullock used to taunt anarchists by asserting that if the USA abolished its government, people would not have to worry about the Russians taking over the country because “the Mexicans would get here first.” This little story actually incorporates a common objection to anarchy—namely, the idea that because, if a country abolished its...
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Where Does Your Health Insurance Premium Go?
Tuesday March 21, 2017 | John R. Graham

AHIP, the trade association for health insurers, has a nifty infographic answering the question: “Where does your premium dollar go?” Obviously designed to defray accusations that health insurers earn too much profit, the infographic shows “net margin: of only three percent. A full 80 percent of our premium dollar goes to paying medical, hospital,...
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Who Are the Demanders of Local Government Services?
Monday March 20, 2017 | Randall Holcombe

Local governments produce lots of services that people value: schools, police protection, water and sewer services, and more. Who are the producers of these services accountable to, and who determines the characteristics of the services local governments provide? Ideally, the people who live in the jurisdictions of those local governments would be the people...
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Veterans Health Administration Realizes It Should Buy, Not Build Software
Monday March 20, 2017 | John R. Graham

Imagine that you learned a government agency built its own office furniture, HVAC, or telephones. Even if there were a massive amount of corruption in government purchasing, it would be remarkable if a bureaucracy could do a better job building than buying. Yet, for decades, the Veterans Health Administration has tried to do that...
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Negative Balance of Trade? So What?
Friday March 17, 2017 | Robert Higgs

The tendency of the USA to have a negative balance of trade (more accurately known as a negative balance on current account) played a prominent role in the recent U.S. presidential campaign. Donald Trump criticized this tendency repeatedly and promised that if elected he would take various actions to reduce or eliminate it. Like...
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Health Insurance Contributes to Past-Due Medical Debt
Wednesday March 15, 2017 | John R. Graham

A new study of past-due medical debt, by Michael Karpman and Kyle J. Kaswell of the Urban Institute, shows that the expansion of health insurance coverage subsequent to the Affordable Care Act is associated with a reduction in the proportion of adults with past-due medical debt. In 2012, 29.6 percent of U.S. adults had...
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MyGovCost: Project of Independent Institute

Governor Brown Begs the Spending Questions
Thursday March 23, 2017 | K. Lloyd Billingsley

After the 2016 election, California governor Jerry Brown showed signs of early onset Trump Derangement Syndrome, pledging resistance and warning that California would “launch its own damn satellite” if President Trump backed off on climate research. On his trip to Washington this week, Brown toned down the defiance and held out the begging bowl....
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Medicare’s Willful Blindness to Its Own Waste
Thursday March 23, 2017 | Craig Eyermann

Every year for the past four years at least 40 billion dollars has gone to waste because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has declined to audit its own expenditures to ensure that unintentional medical billing errors are caught and corrected. That is a stunning claim being advanced by Kristin Walters of...
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Worker’s Comp System Abuses Victims of San Bernardino Terrorist Attack
Monday March 20, 2017 | K. Lloyd Billingsley

As we noted, California’s troubled Victims Compensation Board will reportedly provide $4 million for the victims of the December 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino. The backstory here is that these seriously injured government workers have become victims of government agencies. “The problems started when San Bernardino County placed the terror victims into California’s...
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The Hysterical Reaction to the Skinny Budget
Monday March 20, 2017 | Craig Eyermann

Since President Trump released his “skinny” budget last week, there has been a lot of political posturing, if not outright hysteria in the media, from the advocates of the various government programs targeted for reduced levels of federal spending. And perhaps more remarkably, there have been widespread accusations of spending cuts where none have...
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Spying Out EPA Waste, Fraud and Abuse
Friday March 17, 2017 | K. Lloyd Billingsley

President Trump wants to cut the budget of the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, from $8.2 billion to about $5.7 billion, a reduction of $2.6 billion and more than 3,000 positions. The proposed cuts have drawn attacks from politicians, the old-line establishment media, and regulatory zealots. For their part, taxpayers might keep...
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Getting Skinny
Thursday March 16, 2017 | Craig Eyermann

Before he became president, Donald Trump perhaps made his biggest impression on Americans in his role on the reality TV game show The Apprentice. Today, with the release of the president’s so-called “skinny” budget, he looks to be in the starring role for a government-version of The Biggest Loser. Reuters reports on President Trump’s...
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VA Loses Lawsuit for Denying Timely Health Care
Wednesday March 15, 2017 | Craig Eyermann

On Monday, March 6, 2017, a federal judge awarded $2.5 million to a military veteran who was denied timely medical care at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. The Arizona Republic‘s Jacques Billeaud reports on the results of the civil trial in federal court. A judge on Monday awarded $2.5 million...
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