Category: Healthcare

The Huge Healthcare Subsidy Hiding in Plain Sight

EDWARD D. KLEINBARD, professor of law, USC Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Post on Oct. 15.

The political right has paralyzed government over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, on the grounds that the ACA represents an unacceptable government intrusion into what today is the province of private markets. But the premise is fundamentally untrue.

Government’s hand has long shaped and subsidized health-care markets, for example, in Medicare and Medicaid (which dominate how medical care is organized and delivered in America, even for care that falls outside their reach), or the requirement that hospitals treat urgent care needs of indigents.

The Outrageous Cost of the Angelina Jolie Test

DAVID AGUS, professor of medicine and engineering, Keck School of Medicine of USC.

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times on May 21.

Angelina Jolie’s revelation that she had had a preventive double mastectomy was eloquent and brave. She had learned that she inherited a faulty copy of a gene, BRCA1, that put her at high risk for invasive breast cancer as well as ovarian cancer. Now women everywhere are asking: Should I get the same test? What will it cost?

Only one in about 400 women carry mutations to BRCA1 or to a related gene BRCA2, though such hereditary defects are implicated in between 5 percent and 10 percent of all breast cancers. The majority of the 230,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed annually in the United States are not related to these genes. But if you’re that one in 400 women, you’d want to know so you could make informed decisions about your health care.

Successful and Schizophrenic

ELYN SAKS, professor of law, USC Gould School of Law.

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times on Jan. 25

Thirty years ago, I was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. My prognosis was “grave”: I would never live independently, hold a job, find a loving partner, get married. My home would be a board-and-care facility, my days spent watching TV in a day room with other people debilitated by mental illness. I would work at menial jobs when my symptoms were quiet. Following my last psychiatric hospitalization at the age of 28, I was encouraged by a doctor to work as a cashier making change. If I could handle that, I was told, we would reassess my ability to hold a more demanding position, perhaps even something full-time.

The 2,000-Year-Old Prescription to Control Health Costs

DAVID AGUS, professor of medicine and engineering, Keck School of USC.

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times on Dec. 11.

The inexorable rise in health care spending, as all of us know, is a problem. But what’s truly infuriating, as we watch America’s medical bill soar, is that our conversation has focused almost exclusively on how to pay for that care, not on reducing our need for it. In the endless debate about “health care reform,” few have zeroed in on the practical actions we should be taking now to make Americans healthier.

An exception is Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, who is setting new standards that we would do well to adopt as a nation. In the last several years, he’s changed the city’s health code to mandate restrictions on sodas and trans fats — products that, when consumed over the long term, harm people. These new rules will undoubtedly improve New Yorkers’ health in years to come.

Obamacare Exchanges May Be Too Small to Succeed

DANA P. GOLDMAN, director of USC’s Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, MICHAEL CHERNEW and ANUPAN JENA, professor of health policy at Harvard University.

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times on Nov. 23.

With the re-election of President Obama, the Affordable Care Act is back on track for being carried out in 2014. Central to its success will be the creation of health-insurance exchanges in each state. Beneficiaries will be able to go a Web site and shop for health insurance, with the government subsidizing the premiums of those whose qualify. By encouraging competition among insurers in an open marketplace, the health care law aims to wring some savings out of the insurance industry to keep premiums affordable.

The Medicare Disadvantage

DANA GOLDMAN, director of USC’s Schaeffer Center, ADAM LEIVE, graduate student at University of Pennsylvania and DANIEL MCFADDEN, senior fellow, Schaeffer Center.

This op-ed originally appeared at the New York Times.

One question at the center of the Medicare debate is whether private insurance companies have a future role to play in the huge federal program. Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal gives private health plans a starring role in the form of a voucher program. But some economists would give them the hook, citing the failure of Medicare Advantage to control costs. Some perspective is in order.

Medicare Advantage has historically cost 7 to 12 percent more than traditional Medicare, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. But to conclude that this cost difference proves that private health plans have no place in Medicare misreads the Medicare Advantage experience in an important way: It ignores the decisive role that government has played in driving up the program’s costs. Medicare Advantage is only partly about reducing costs. It is also designed to increase choice for beneficiaries. And the incentives that government gives private health plans to expand choice end up undercutting efforts to save money.

New China Syndrome: Richer, Unhappy

RICHARD A. EASTERLIN, professor of economics, USC Dornsife.

This op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times.

China’s new leaders, who will be anointed next month at the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress in Beijing, might want to rethink the Faustian bargain their predecessors embraced some 20 years ago: namely, that social stability could be bought by rapid economic growth.

As the recent riots at a Foxconn factory in northern China demonstrate, growth alone, even at sustained, spectacular rates, has not produced the kind of life satisfaction crucial to a stable society — an experience that shows how critically important good jobs and a strong social safety net are to people’s happiness.

An Unexpected Visitor to Yosemite

WILLIAM DEVERELL, professor of history, USC Dornsife.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

There’s a terrible irony lurking in the recent news of the hantavirus outbreak at Yosemite National Park, which has killed three visitors and sickened half a dozen more since mid-June. Part of the backdrop of the 1864 act that established Yosemite as essentially the nation’s first national park (that language would not be used until 1872 in the founding of Yellowstone National Park) had everything to do with health and healing in the latter years of the Civil War. We’d do well to note that from today’s vantage of being in the middle of the sesquicentennial years of the war.

Heredity, Diet Driving Health Crisis in Hispanic Community

MICHAEL GORAN, director of the USC Childhood Obesity Research Center, Keck School of Medicine, and EMILY VENTURA, fellow, UCLA Department of Cancer Prevention and Control Research.

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

A combination of heredity and diet is driving a potential health crisis of liver disease in the Hispanic community.

Obesity is a growing problem among Hispanics, especially children and adolescents. In Los Angeles County, obesity levels among Hispanics are among the highest (25.5 percent), especially hitting those with low incomes. In some communities, some 35 percent of children are obese.

An Ounce of Prevention Could Save Billions

DANA GOLDMAN, director of USC’s Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, talked to Gina Kolata about reining in healthcare costs by improving access to preventative care.

The Q&A originally appeared in the New York Times.

How much are we spending on treating diseases that might be prevented?

The most consistent estimates, and most widely cited, seem to come out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lobbying groups like the Tobacco-Free Kids initiative, and the president’s prevention initiative. Instead of blanket measures, they focus more on diseases relating to “lifestyle” decisions like obesity and smoking, and their estimates include costs for lost productivity in addition to medical expenses.