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Monday November 30, 2009

David Leonhardt on What’s Missing in the Health Care Debate

As Senate Democrats try to line up enough votes to pass their version of health care reform legislation, the question of affording both health care reform and the war in Afghanistan has come to the fore. We speak with David Leonhardt, “Economic Scene” columnist for the New York Times, about what’s lacking so far in the health care reform debate.

Demjanjuk Trial

89-year-old John Demjanjuk is on trial in Germany in connection with the murders of more than 27,000 people at a Nazi death camp in Poland during World War Two. Prosecutors allege Demjanjuk was an S.S. guard at the camp, but Demjanjuk claims he was never there. The BBC’s Oana Lungescu is covering the trial and joins us from Munich to talk about the opening day.

Tiger’s Not Talking

Tiger Woods says he won’t talk to police investigators about the early morning car crash that left him unconscious and bleeding on Friday. Instead, he’s posted a message on his website taking responsibility for the accident and denouncing what he’s calling malicious and irresponsible rumors. We talk with Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Bamberger about the incident.

Cyber Monday

Analysts expect nearly a 100 million Americans to hit the web for holiday shopping today, on what has become known as Cyber Monday. What are people buying? And is it enough to put retailers in the black? We’ll speak with Ylan Mui, retail reporter for the Washington Post.

Toy Makers

In response the lead tainted toy scare a few years back, Congress passed legislation that set safety standards for all goods used by children under twelve – including toys. The new regulations go into effect in February and many large toy companies say the are already testing the safety of their products. But small, independent toy makers say the cost of complying with the new rules will put them out of business. We talk with William John Woods, who builds wooden toys in Ogunquit, Maine.

A Film Score without the Film

In this Sept. 18, 2009 photo, musician Brian Setzer poses at home with his guitar in his Minneapolis condo. Setzer, leader of the Brian Setzer Orchestra and a fan of film noir, is out with a new CD titled "Songs from Lonely Avenue," which is a tribute to film noir. (AP)

In this Sept. 18, 2009 photo, musician Brian Setzer poses at home with his guitar in his Minneapolis condo. (AP)

Former Stray Cats front man, Brian Setzer, is out with a new album inspired by the Film Noir genre of the 1940s and 50s. Brian Setzer says he approached “Songs from Lonely Avenue” as if he were writing a film score. Now, he’s just waiting to see if someone will write a movie around the songs. Brian Setzer joins us with his Gretsch guitar to talk about his new album as well as his now annual Holiday music tour.

Music from the show

  • Kar-Kar Madison, “Boubacar Traore”
  • Christian McBride, “Theme for Kareem”
  • Paul Simon, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”
  • The Lickets, “Meat City”
  • Fred Hirsch, “Desafinado”
  • Freddie Hubbard, “Little Sunflower”
  • Pee Demers

    Heath care:
    Paying for health care primarily with health insurance is the reason health care is so expensive. Insurance companies report that they return only 25% to 30% of their revenues to pay health care providers. The remainder of our premiums pay for the inefficiencies of the system which is primarily spent to make sure they are not paying for something not covered. (Fraud and unnecessary procedures) That means that, collectively, we pay up to 4 times more for health care than the real cost of helth care. If the money we spent for health insurace was deposited in a health savings plan where we controlled the expenditures, these inefficiencies would be eliminated. Also, with laws requiring posting prices for sevices, competition would return to health care providing the ncessary cost control. I could go on explaining the advantages of requiring health savngs account in lieu of health inurance and how to make it work.

  • Richard Cole

    RE: Toy makers.

    Still more evidence that the federal government, and Congress in particular, has the institutional intelligence of a road-kill opossum.

    The small toy makers don’t really require an exemption, per se. What they need is a rational requirement. To wit: submit, not a sample of each model of finished toy, but samples of the materials. In Mr. Woods case that would be the hardwoods and the finishes. They can be tested in bulk. If there’s no lead in the materials, there won’t be any in the product.

  • Richard Cole

    As Mr. Leonhardt began by claiming that we (the U.S.) spend a lot more on medical care but don’t get much better health, I immediately thought of the law of diminishing returns. (For any who don’t recall it, that’s the principle in which after a point each marginal dollar spent returns less than the one before, or stated in reverse, that each incremental improvement in results costs more than the previous.) It also made me wonder why, other than “penis envy”, people seem so exercised about so-called “Cadillac” insurance plans. It is really unlikely that the holders of these plans get as much more from the plans as they pay more for them, but that would seem to be their loss, not ours.

    (I think the previous comment alleging that insurance pays out only $25 to $30 in benefits per $100 in premiums probably has the numbers reversed. I sure hope so. If the numbers aren’t wrong we should find out why before we do anything else. Claims of “waste, fraud and abuse” as the prime driver of medical care costs are probably overstated. If they aren’t, why are efforts to do anything about them so lackluster?)

  • Richard Cole

    Mr. Leonhardt also made reference to differing per capita costs in different places.

    So far as I can tell, the best way to predict which of two metro areas will have the higher costs is to compare the populations. The area with the larger population will usually have the higher per capita costs. It isn’t a perfect method; it’s just the best I’ve seen. Nor do I know why it should be the case.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

August 29 Comment

World Championship Tug-Of-War Is ‘A Thing Of Beauty’

This weekend's competition in Wisconsin is a bit more intense than it was in your grade school gym class.

August 29 Comment

Repelling Mosquitoes With A Natural Sticky Patch

The Kite Patch releases odors that block the bug's carbon dioxide receptors, sending them in another direction.

August 28 Comment

Catching Up With The Polyphonic Spree

The choral rock band out of Dallas, Texas, has been thrilling audiences with its live performances for over a decade.

August 28 5 Comments

‘Enormous’ Growth Of Ocean Garbage Patch

The oceanographer who discovered the floating island of trash in 1997 says he's shocked by how much it's grown.