Volume 17, Issue 6: February 11, 2015
- A Medicare Proposal That Rewards Smart Shopping
- Peter Thiel Luncheon Video Now Available
- Californias Proposed Water Tunnels Might Sink the State Budget
- Obama Opposes Even Clean Coal
- New Blog Posts
- Selected News Alerts
1) A Medicare Proposal That Rewards Smart Shopping
The rate of healthcare spending in the United States has long been a major concern. Although it has moderated in recent years, it will likely shoot up again as baby boomers continue to age. Independent Institute Senior Fellow John R. Graham has a novel solution for this problem: give Medicare enrollees strong incentives to help lower prices and reduce overall health spending.
Heres how it would work. Suppose Medicare allowed an enrollee to shop around for medical services and offered a financial bonus for thrifty shopping. If the enrollee finds a price for a medial service that is below the amount that Medicare will pay the enrollee as a reimbursement, then a portion of that savings would be credited to the enrollees Social Security account.
Such a scheme isnt all that far-fetched or unproven. Four years ago, Californias state employee retirement system, in cooperation with a major health insurer, introduced reference pricing for knee- and hip-replacement surgeries. This created a standard reimbursement schedule for those procedures and allowed retirees enrolled in the plan to add their own funds to those amounts. As a result, high-priced facilities cut their fees by one-third, Graham writes. Its practically a no-brainer. Costs come down when shoppers can shop for less expensive alternatives. Applying this principle to Medicare enrollees would help improve the fiscal health of the nation.
How Domestic Medical Tourism Could Save Us All Money, by John R. Graham (The Washington Post, 2/6/15)
Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman
Healthcare Solutions for Post-Obamacare America, by John C. Goodman
2) Peter Thiel Luncheon Video Now Available
On January 27, legendary investor and entrepreneur Peter Thiel wowed a sold-out audience at San Franciscos prestigious Olympic Club with his insightful, often witty perspective on startups, innovation, and the prospects for material progress. The luncheon was Thiels first public event with the Independent Institute since its 2004 gala honoring another business and technology leader, former Motorola chairman Robert Galvin.
Ever since he helped found PayPal in the late 1990s, Thiel has come to be known in Silicon Valley and across the nation as one of our eras pre-eminent contrarian thinkers, and his talk last month did not disappoint. Heres one example (see the luncheon video for more). Do you think todays world is awash in technological innovation? Thiel disagrees. Innovation, he argued, peaked around 1971. The fast growth of new products that we see around us is mostly limited to just a few sectors such as the computer industry, and that success is in no small measure the result of a lack of government regulation. In the world of physical objects, as opposed to the bits and bytes of computer software, government regulations are choking out innovation.
[F]or the last 40 years, weve lived in a world where bits were relatively unregulated, atoms were more or less regulated to death, Thiel said. And thats a political explanation for why weve had this strange dichotomy. True, computer-related innovations are moving into physical sectorsjust wait until your grandparents start buying high-tech home appliances and wearables featuring the Internet of things from QVCbut as this trend spreads, calls for increased regulation will mount, perhaps resulting in a state of stagnation or decline. Unless we take corrective action and keep government regulation at bay, the Silicon Valley of tomorrow could become the Detroit of today.
Video: Peter Thiel on Developing the Developed World: Entrepreneurship, Liberty, and the Future (Independent Policy Forum, 1/27/15)
Death Valley? Peter Thiel and Steve Jobs on What Could Kill Silicon Valley, by Lawrence J. McQuillan (The Beacon, 1/29/15)
Peter Thiels Contrarian Manifesto, by Aaron Tao (The Beacon, 1/23/15)
Books by Peter Thiel:
3) Californias Proposed Water Tunnels Might Sink the State Budget
California Governor Jerry Brown says the construction of two massive water-diversion tunnels under the largest river delta west of the Mississippiofficial cost estimate: $25 billioncould help quench the thirst of the Golden States biggest water users. But if Seattles experience is any indication, the final costs of Browns proposed 40-foot-high, 35-mile-long tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta would likely be far biggerperhaps totaling $250 billion, according to Independent Institute Policy Fellow K. Lloyd Billingsley.
Seattle broke ground on a water tunnel in 2009, at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion and a completion date of 2015. But the tunnels construction has defied official projections. It may not be ready until 2017if it gets more funding. An estimated 70 percent of the initial budget has already been spent. Why would a massive water project in Californiafamous for its thickets of environmental regulations and hordes of politically organized stakeholders such as environmentalists, farmers, commercial fishermen, recreational water users, and urban dwellersfare any better? It probably wouldnt.
Gov. Brown appears undisturbed by the financial, environmental and safety concerns of the tunnels, Billingsley writes. His brand of tunnel vision cant reverse itself. It prefers to focus on the joys of spending and a glowing legacy down the road. The governor will be long out of office but California taxpayers, and their children, will be stuck with the costs.
Browns Tunnel Vision Could Sink Taxpayers, by K. Lloyd Billingsley (Orange County Register, 1/30/15)
Aquanomics: Water Markets and the Environment, edited by B. Delworth Gardner and Randy T. Simmons
4) Obama Opposes Even Clean Coal
The Obama administration says it will cut funding for FutureGen, a zero-emissions coal plant scheduled for Illinois. The news is both good and bad: Its good because government subsidies to industry will be cutthats a victory for taxpayers, at least to the extent that it reduces pressure to raise taxes or go further in debt. But in another sense the decision is bad, because it further strengthens the hand of the nations anti-coal contingent.
President Obama cant say with a straight face that he killed funding for the project because it would have been bad for the environment. After all, ultra-low-emissions coal technologyespecially in a country where coal generates about four-tenths of the countrys electric powerleaves a smaller footprint on the environment. The presidents maneuver is just another in his long campaign against coal.
The White House not only has abandoned FutureGen, but current policy is detrimental to environmental efforts to use coal more wisely, writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II. Rather than finding ways to burn coal without loading the atmosphere with carbon that could be emulated by other countries, the administrations so-called Clean Power Plan provides no realistic model for the world.
President Obamas Tin Ear on Clean Coal, by William F. Shughart II (Deseret News, 2/6/15)
Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, edited by William F. Shughart II
5) New Blog Posts
From The Beacon:
Modern Tech Suggests Government Data on Police-Related Homicides Flawed (2/6/2015)
Lawrence J. McQuillan
Politics Is Not Just Spy versus Spy; It's also Slogan versus Slogan (2/5/2015)
Health Care Spending Is Up, Way Up (2/5/2015)
John R. Graham
I Pledge Allegiance to Blind Nationalism (2/4/2015)
Medical-Device Excise Tax Kills Jobs, Obamacare Kills Much More (2/3/2015)
John R. Graham
From MyGovCost News & Blog:
Bay Bridge Boondoggle Boss Escapes Accountability
K. Lloyd Billingsley (2/9/15)
A 52.6% Income Tax Rate for the Middle Class?
Craig Eyermann (2/5/15)
$13.2 Billion Bust Bilks Taxpayers
K. Lloyd Billingsley (2/4/15)
6) Selected News Alerts