What's wrong with short-term health insurance?

Back before the Affordable Care Act took effect, a lot of the health insurance horror stories I heard had to do with short-term health insurance policies. They were typically purchased by people who thought they were getting a really good deal since the policies tended to be cheap.

Unfortunately those policies are generally not renewable unless you stay healthy, so a serious illness or injury near the end of the policy's term could leave the patient suddenly uninsured and back then uninsurable. On top of that, such policies typically provide limited coverage and cap how much the insurance company will pay out. There had to be some reason the policies were so cheap, and that's it.

Under a full Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) policy it's the patient's spending that's limited, not the insurance company's.

The Affordable Care Act did allow temporary short-term policies to be issued, but only for three months, as a way of helping people get at least some inexpensive insurance between jobs. But now the Trump Administration has authorized "short term" policies for as long as a year. This can again lead naïve consumers to buy such bargain-basement insurance under the mistaken impression that health insurance is health insurance. (Others might buy them even knowing the coverage is skimpy because they're convinced that since they've never yet been seriously injured or ill, they never will be.)

Here's Dr Aaron Carroll on the subject:

Link: https://youtu.be/nz4Cb9oJuvc

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Self-driving vehicles from 45-60 years ago

Filmmaker Brady Haran visits the archive of The Associated Press in London and finds old newsreels of driverless tractors from 1958 and driverless cars from 1972-73. Then there's the creepy Billy the Beacon, a rather creepy robot for teaching British children how to cross the street in 1953:

Link: https://youtu.be/j5RYRwHKqRs

The AP archivist is Jenny Hammerton and the non-archival video was shot by Brady's associate James Hennessy.

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High death rate for mothers giving birth in the U.S.

As noted by, for example, a report last year from ProPublica and National Public Radio, the United States has by far the highest death rate in the developed world for women around the time of giving birth. It's not even close: As of 2015, there were 26.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the U.S. while in other advanced countries the rate ranged from 3.8 to 9.4. (These figures are from the NPR/ProPublica report; other estimates differ somewhat because of varying definitions and methods of measurement, but they're similar.)

Even worse, that rate has been rising in the U.S. even as it declines elsewhere. Here's a graph from the article on the NPR website:

Maternal death rates in the United States versus other developed countries

For possible reasons why, see this article by Dr Felicia Lester, MD, medical director of gynecologic services at the University of California, San Francisco.

Bad as the overall rate is, maternal mortality among African American mothers is about three times worse. Here's a summary of the situation and its likely causes from Dr Aaron Carroll, whose YouTube videos I often share here:

Link: https://youtu.be/VYc-Eq-vDuA

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Distracted driving: Even talking on a hands-free phone is pretty bad

My cell phone connects with my car via Bluetooth so I can make and receive phone calls in my car without taking my hands off the steering wheel. I rarely do it, though, because of what I've read about credible research.

You might think that because you're careful, you can talk on the phone or even text and send emails without impairing your driving. Unfortunately, you're almost certainly wrong. I know, I know, it seems that talking on the phone wouldn't be any more distracting that talking with a passenger, but again the research says otherwise. And on average, people who think they're better at dealing with distractions actually turn out to be worse.

People tend to be remarkably stubborn about their driving, so I doubt a lot of people will be persuaded by this, but if you do have an open mind the following might interest you:

Link: https://youtu.be/vpva5vr9tGE

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The cost of single-payer health insurance

In this video published August 31, pediatrician and medical school professor Dr Aaron Carroll points out that according to independent estimates, the Medicare for All program proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders would reduce total U.S. healthcare spending, in part because doctors and hospitals would be paid at Medicare rates.

Link: https://youtu.be/rZIF3LAIQWE

Of course, healthcare providers have a fair amount of political clout and might lobby for higher compensation, which could end up wiping out the savings.

On the other hand, the current complicated system means that nearly a third of healthcare spending actually goes to administrative overhead that would almost certainly be lower in a single-payer system, so healthcare providers might well wind up better off even with lower gross billings.

Link: https://youtu.be/wnZKKvG5rQQ

It's of course worth recalling that all other advanced countries spend less per citizen, often a lot less, than the United States does, and our healthcare outcomes aren't on the whole better than average. Single-payer systems, as used in the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, and Taiwan, but the better-regulated multi-payer systems found in Switzerland, Germany, Israel, Japan, and elsewhere still cost less than ours.

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Heat and drought expose archaeological treasures in Britain, Ireland, and Switzerland

This summer has been extraordinarily hot and dry in much of Europe, including places where air conditioning is rare. It's been miserable for a lot of residents and tourists, but on the positive side, a side effect has been the discovery of some important historical sites, ranging from traces of very ancient structures in Ireland to a crashed plane that had been frozen in a Swiss glacier since World War 2. The following report originally aired August 31 on PBS Newshour:

Link: https://youtu.be/yV82r4IAjpg

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The decency of John McCain

Senator John McCain has died of the same illness that took the life of my youngest brother just short of two years ago. I disagreed with Senator McCain about a lot of things and like all of us he was a flawed human being. But he also many times showed basic decency I always admired. Here are a couple of very brief memorable examples:

Link: https://youtu.be/JIjenjANqAk

That the current occupant of the White House could not bring himself to show even common basic respect to Senator McCain at the end of his life is unfortunately just another in series of demonstrations of Trump's pathetic lack of character. Even after McCain's death he offered weak condolences to the senator's family but not one word about the man himself.

Here's a succinct summary of John McCain's accomplishments in public service from PBS NewsHour. It's worth seeing even if you're already familiar with the highlights of his career.

Link: https://youtu.be/A9-LhI9He3Q

Finally, veteran journalist Jeff Greenfield recalls McCain's life and his strengths and flaws (and in response to a question briefly contrasts him with Trump):

Link: https://youtu.be/R6okxSbJ6yw

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