Congress’ Drug Addiction

Posted 2/26/16 on Employee Benefit News.

The Congressional committee that recently demanded Martin Shkreli’s appearance must have hoped to spotlight a smug jerk responsible for the outrageous prescription drug pricing that we’re all up against. Of course there are lots of Shkrelis running drug companies, but most are shrewder and less brash, and might not make for such good theater.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), one of the Committee’s questioners, seemed to think that his witness could move healthcare forward by disclosing the machinery of the drug sector’s excesses. “The way I see it, you could go down in history as the poster boy for greedy drug company executives or you could change the system. Yeah, you.” Continue reading “Congress’ Drug Addiction”

Twenty Questions for Public Policy Proposals

Paul Levy

Posted 10/23/11 on Not Running a Hospital

As I re-read the comments I have received regarding my critique of plans to impose financial penalties for variations in readmission rates, I realized that my correspondents and I were talking past one another.  I was presenting views based on how to design public policy, while they were stressing (understandable) concerns about the quality and cost of medical care.  They were viewing high readmission rates as something that deserved the hammer of a financial penalty, while I was viewing the issue as one of many public policy issues surrounding the health care environment, where unintended consequences of policy intervention are something to be considered.

To help explain how I view these kind of issues, I am going to share a list of twenty questions modified slightly from those Larry Bacow used to share with his students while a professor at MIT (before heading off to be President of Tufts University.)  Even though the list is over twenty years old, and Larry might modify them even more at this point, it is still a remarkably useful framework within which to view a wide range of issues.  Some are not germane to health care, but many are. 

These kinds of questions underlie a lot of the commentary you see from me here on this blog.  Please understand that these questions, although demanding some degree of analytical rigor, are not designed to stymie public policy advances, but to focus public policy interventions in the hope of more effectively solving problems.

1.  In identifying the problem, or proposing the program, what does one hope to change?  Examples:  The overall distribution of income; the income of particular groups; incentives; resources; bargaining power; political power; competitive advantage or opportunities; a condition that afflicts some particular target population; a source of social conflict or friction; some legal, customary, or social arrangement or the legitimacy of certain actions or arrangements; values, tastes and interest; the range of choice available to some group; other.

Continue reading “Twenty Questions for Public Policy Proposals”