The House Health Care Reform Bill Less Expensive than Bush’s Tax Cuts

According to a new report by the Citizens for Tax Justice, current health reform efforts–which have an expected price tag of around $1 trillion for ten years–will cost significantly less than Bush’s tax cuts, which cost an estimated $2.5 trillion over the same period.

As the report notes:

“[M]any of the lawmakers who argue that the health care reform legislation is “too costly” are the same lawmakers who supported the Bush tax cuts. Their own voting record demonstrates that health care reform is not a matter of costs, but a matter of priorities.

“It’s difficult to see how the Bush tax cuts could provide us with two and a half times the benefits of health care reform. In 2010, when all the Bush tax cuts are finally phased in, a staggering 52.5 percent of the benefits will go to the richest 5 percent of taxpayers. President Bush and his supporters argued that these high-income tax cuts would benefit everybody because they would unleash investment that would spark widespread economic prosperity. There seems to be no evidence of this, particularly given the collapse of the economy at the end of the Bush years.”


Obama’s Plan to Contain Health Care Costs for Health Care Reform May Hit a Snag

Obama has pledged to reduce health care costs by $2 trillion over the next decade as part of his proposal to reform the United States health care system.

Obama’s pledge may have hit a snag in the form of U.S. antitrust laws, which prohibit unfair business practices (including collusion to set prices).  To read more about it, click here.

Former Senator Daschle Picked by Obama to Reform Health Care

As reported earlier, former Senator Tom Daschle was picked by President Elect Barack Obama to head up the Department of Health and Human Services.   As recently announced, Senator Daschle will also would also be the director of the newly-created “White House Office of Health Reform.”  Mr. Daschle, in Obama’s words, will be the “lead architect” of proposals to expand coverage and rein in health costs.

Jeanne M. Lambrew, a former aide to President Bill Clinton and a former colleague of Daschle’s from the Center for American Progress, will be deputy director of the new office.  Lambrew collaboratedwith Daschle on his book Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.

Obama’s choice of two authors of Critical, a book that he endorsed, suggests a blueprint for health reform as envisioned by Obama.  Daschle and Lambrew advocate for the creation of a Federal Health Board, an independent entity like the Federal Reserve, that would make coverage decisions for federal health programs–in other words, permit trained and knowledgable experts to make the technical decisions rather than having Congress fight each battle.

Scholar’s Corner: Recent Scholarly Works in Global Health Law

International Health Care Convergence: The Benefits and Burdens of Market-Driven Standardization

Nathan Cortez
Southern Methodist University- Dedman School of Law

Wisconsin International Law Journal, 2008

For over thirty years, health scholars have debated whether health care policies are converging, or becoming more alike, internationally. Convergence theories have always been particularly appealing in health care. Most countries generally struggle with the same challenges: how to provide quality care, to as many people as possible, for a reasonable price. Moreover, modern scientific medicine has not only influenced how countries around the world provide and regulate health care, but has also driven rising patient expectations. These commonalities invite theories of convergence: If policymakers in different jurisdictions face similar challenges, why wouldn’t they adopt roughly similar solutions?

In this article, I take the existing scholarship and form a new framework for understanding several recent international health care trends. Rather than focusing on policy convergence driven primarily by the public sector, I argue that the private sector is encouraging health care practices and standards to converge internationally.

I use recent trends to examine this framework, including: international physician and nurse migration; international standardization of medical education; the medical tourism phenomenon; and international trade and standardization of pharmaceuticals, devices, and medical technologies. I also examine various trends pointing towards increased privatization and commercialization-particularly among developing countries-and discuss the unique role that the United States and organizations like the WTO, World Bank, and OECD play in promoting these trends.

I conclude by examining the benefits and burdens of market-driven convergence, including the perils of commercialization, internal “brain drains,” and other phenomena that might warn against promoting convergence and privatization without some limiting mechanisms.


Available at SSRN.

Scholar’s Corner: Recent Scholarly Works in Global Health Law

Teaching Sicko

Elizabeth A. Weeks
University of Kansas – School of Law

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 2009


This brief essay, slated for publication in a regular column on “Teaching Health Law,” describes the author’s experience using the Michael Moore film, “Sicko,” in the classroom. Students were assigned to watch the film and discuss relevant legal rules and policy issues in health care financing, health care reform, and public health law. The “Teaching Health Law” column is intended to share pedagogical experiences and insights among health law professors. This article also provides a summary of the substantive health laws implicated by the film.

Available at SSRN

Scholar’s Corner: Recent Scholarly Works in Global Health Law

Flu Shots, Work Absences and Hospitalizations: Is an Ounce of Prevention Worth a Pound of Cure?

Courtney Ward
University of Toronto

November 11, 2008


Available at SSRN

In this study, I evaluate the health and economic consequences of a broad-based flu vaccination program. The Ontario Influenza Immunization Campaign was introduced in 2001 and delivers free flu shots to healthy children and adults. This program was novel; historically the flu shot had been recommended only for the elderly or infirm and policy expansion outside these groups continues to be controversial. The Ontario campaign offers a useful policy experiment to address this controversy by evaluating the impact of vaccinating children and younger adults against flu. Given that a simple before and after comparison of Ontario and other provinces may incorrectly attribute all changes in outcomes to the flu shot campaign, I instead develop a triple difference identification strategy that exploits variation in the match of the flu shot to the flu. I find that when the flu shot was a good match against circulating strains of flu, Ontario had substantially greater decreases in illness and lost work-time than other provinces after the introduction of the flu shot campaign. Further, based on the results for hospitalizations alone, an ounce of prevention saves a pound of cure; the program expansion costs approximately $33 million per year while, in an average match season, the program saves $102 million in respiratory hospitalization costs and $64 million in work absence costs. While the results are strongest for children and younger adults, hospitalization rates for those older than 65 fell significantly even though this group experienced no relative change in vaccination. This suggests that increased vaccination of the young has positive externality effects for the elderly.

Insurance Company Covers International Health Tourism

According to the N.Y. Times, health insurer Wellpoint is testing a new program that permits those insured to go to India for elective surgery, with no out-of-pocket medical costs and free travel for both the patient and a companion.  The pilot program arranges for patients to be picked up at the airport and provides special meals to prevent food-borne illnesses. The program complies with the American Medical Association guidelines on medical tourism and uses hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International.

By the year 2010, more than 6 million Americans annually will be seeking medical treatment abroad. The potential savings are significant. Knee surgery that costs $70,000 to $80,000 in the United States can be performed in India for $8,000 to $10,000, including follow-up care and rehabilitation.