Archive for December, 2008

Saving Taxpayers Money by Replacing High-Interest Loans at Tax Time with Instant Refunds

Sunday, December 21st, 2008 by Al Lewis (alewis)

The biggest ripoff in consumer lending is the refund anticipation check. Tax preparers offer their clients +/- 90% of the value of the anticiated refund, on the spot, a very high implied APR. This posting shows how the government can replace this with loans at much better terms, get the money into people’s hands faster and — in conjunciton with the Stimulus Gift Card — even ofer MORE than the value of the refund in an immediate gift card. Economic stimulation AND profits for the government AND a windfall for consumers.

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Behind The Green Door: How to make hotel rooms less expensive

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 by Al Lewis (alewis)

Why don’t hotels have no-frills “green rooms” ? Here’s how it would work. First, instead of those little disposable bottles of shampoo and conditioner and body lotion (who the hell even uses the body lotion?), they’d have a dispenser. Second, if you want changes of sheets and towels you’d pay extra. In fact, maid serivce [...]

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What economists can learn from the Bates Motel

Friday, December 12th, 2008 by Al Lewis (alewis)

Like Norman Bates’ mother, your gas and electric meters are never seen outside the basement. But this does not have to be the case. (About metering, that is.) Think Outside Of the Box for a minute. What if every day an email appeared on your computer [...]

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Reducing pharmaceutical utilization and costs

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 by k_pruchnik

Pharmaceutical costs in the United States has been rising significantly in recent years (other than 2008) at a rate higher than inflation. A portion of these costs are due to price increases, but a significant portion is due to the ability of the pharmaceutical companies to increase market [...]

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Why is it so hard to die?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 by Al Lewis (alewis)

A restaurant which insisted on giving us more food than we wanted, and wouldn’t let us leave until we ate it all, and sent the other diners the check for our extra portions, would go out of business within hours.
Yet, that is exactly what happens when it is time to die. In [...]

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Can too much disease prevention be hazardous to your health?

Thursday, December 4th, 2008 by Al Lewis (alewis)

Be careful before assuming that prevention is the key to lower healthcare costs. Like with most things in life (1) you need to look at the data and (2) as HL Mencken said, “For every problem, no matter how complex, there is a simple and easily understood solution, and it’s almost always wrong.”

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What does it take to make the UK and other similar health systems efficient

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 by Teodor Todhe

From time to time I have had the urge to try figure out which between the two different models of health systems in the developed world, namely the USA health system in one side or the UK, Canadian, Australian, New Zealandian, Danish etc. in the other, is better or worse than the other.
It is [...]

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Stimulus Gift Card

Monday, December 1st, 2008 by klewi

Many commentators have lamented the fact that people did not spend their stimulus checks in 2008, but saved them instead. Obviously, the “stimulus” only works if people spend it. Recent examples of those commentators would be Bruce Bartlett (New York Times 12/24/08), Ed Glaeser (Boston Globe 1/5/09), and Scott Lehigh (Boston Globe 1/9/09). No one has suggested the solution proposed below, which would hugely incentivize spending a tax cut or stimulus check, while at the same time providing a windfall to consumers at no additional cost to the government. So to those commentators and everyone else, we offer the following lesson in the new field of “stimulus economics.”

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