Cash transfers vs. in-kind health care assistance

The benefit of Medicaid coverage received by a newly insured adult is less than half what that coverage costs taxpayers, which is about $5,500 a year.

The reason is simple: The uninsured already receive a substantial amount of health care, but pay for only a very small portion of it, especially when their medical bills are high.

We have estimated that 60 percent of government spending to expand Medicaid to new recipients ends up paying for care that the nominally uninsured already receive, courtesy of taxpayer dollars and hospital resources. In other words, from the recipient’s perspective the alternatives are $5,500 in cash or only about 40 percent of that — $2,200 — in health insurance benefits, on top of the care they were already receiving.

That is from Amy Finkelstein at the NYT.

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Thursday assorted links

Ezra Klein on UFOs

What if they turn out to be “a thing”?  Here is one excerpt, to be clear this is not the only view or possibility he is putting forward:

One immediate effect, I suspect, would be a collapse in public trust. Decades of U.F.O. reports and conspiracies would take on a different cast. Governments would be seen as having withheld a profound truth from the public, whether or not they actually did. We already live in an age of conspiracy theories. Now the guardrails would truly shatter, because if U.F.O.s were real, despite decades of dismissals, who would remain trusted to say anything else was false? Certainly not the academics who’d laughed them off as nonsense, or the governments who would now be seen as liars.

And this:

One lesson of the pandemic is that humanity’s desire for normalcy is an underrated force, and there is no single mistake as common to political analysis as the constant belief that this or that event will finally change everything. If so many can deny or downplay a disease that’s killed millions, dismissing some unusual debris would be trivial. “An awful lot of people would basically shrug and it’d be in the news for three days,” Adrian Tchaikovsky, the science fiction writer, told me. “You can’t just say, ‘still no understanding of alien thing!’ every day. An awful lot of people would be very keen on continuing with their lives and routines no matter what.”

Excellent column, do read the whole thing (NYT).

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The inflation trilemma

You all know by now that the measured rate of price inflation came in at 4.2%, much higher than expected.  Many people wish to maintain this is not a major problem, and maybe they are right.  But here are three views you cannot hold simultaneously:

1. The distribution of income really matters.

2. Workers don’t have nearly enough bargaining power, and are at a disadvantage in negotiations and renegotiations.

3. Higher rates of price inflation are not a problem.

Higher rates of price inflation, of course, lower real wages unless workers can bargain back up the nominal wage to reattain their previous real wage.  You could try the “poor people win it back on their nominal debt” argument, but a) debt has to be high relative to the future stream of wages, b) wages also serve allocational and motivating functions, and c) if worker wages don’t rise much to offset the inflation, future borrowing will be more costly, in real terms too even though it looks like “only a nominal interest rate increase.”

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The dating culture that is Korean

Some Korean couples have found a way to redefine romance — by gifting each other Tesla and other blue-chip stocks.

It all started when securities brokerage and investment banking company Shinhan Investment Corp started listing “stock gift cards” on the KakaoTalk mobile app’s “Kakao Gift” store around Christmas last year.

Perhaps inspired by Kanye West’s 2017 Christmas gift to Kim Kardashian, which included Amazon, Apple, Disney, and Netflix stock, KakaoTalk allows would-be wooers to purchase stock in Starbucks rather than simply a latte from the coffee chain. Daters can also select more expensive stocks, including Apple stock gift cards sold at 25,000 KRW ($22), or Tesla stock gift cards, which go for 30,000 KRW ($26)…

According to statistics seen by Korean media outlet Chosun Ilbo, the Shinhan Investment bank sold more than 20,000 “stock gift cards” since the launch of the program on December 24, 2020. Shinhan noted that the stocks were most popular among customers in their 20s and 30s.

Here is the full story.  Is this a way of signaling you really do want the relationship to be about money (and a high savings rate?) to a relatively high degree?  Or does the particular choice of stock show that you do (do not) understand your partner very well?

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Praise to Vitalik Buterin!

Here is further information.  And here is my earlier (and now ungated) Bloomberg column on crypto-billionaires and philanthropy.

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Is bitcoin an inflation hedge?


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Wednesday assorted links

Where Next? Forecasting COVID in India

The Development Data Lab has put together a real-time forecast of COVID by district in India.

The underlying dataset of the portal is open-access and has information on total cases, deaths, estimated reproductive rate, total clinics and hospitals at the district level. Our hope is that residents of high-risk district will adjust behavior if their area has a precariously increasing reproduction rate over time. Even better if aid and medical support that many organizations are mobilizing at an impressive pace could be allocated based on district-level evidence. District-level bureaucrats can incorporate this additional information in planning their pandemic response (most of us have read about the striking example of what the District Collector of Nandurbar was able to achieve to prepare against the second wave). Finally, central and state governments could tailor their pandemic response given the obvious paucity of resources and time based on district-level risk estimates.

Overall, knowing where the virus will strike next can help save lives — by guiding behavior change, local public health measures, and allocation of scarce resources.

This is an important resource. Anup Malani, Satej Soman, Sabareesh Ramachandran, Ruchir Agarwal, Sam Asher, Tobias Lunt, Paul Novosad, and Aditi Bhowmick are some of the people working on this.

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The first date book walk out meme

Michele W. (citing @ogbrenna) asked on Twitter:

You’re on a first date with someone, and they tell you the name of their favorite book. You immediately leave. What’s the book?

This caused Atlas Shrugged to trend, and The Bible was another popular response.  It is striking to me how, with a simple change of setting, and a shift in the mood affiliation of the example, how discrimination on the basis of religion suddenly is glorified and celebrated.  Funny how few cited The Quran, or for that matter “The Hebrew Bible,” albeit for two very different reasons.

(By the way, I’ve been going around to many San Francisco book stores, and none of them carry the new Sarah Ruden translation of The Gospels, which is likely a significant work.  I could feel people looking down on me as I asked for it.  Part of me wanted to say “But this is Sarah Ruden,” but that would be making the problem only worse.  Since I did not feel tempted to say “But this is God,” perhaps I am part of the problem.)

Why not email a bit with a potential date beforehand, if such matters are so important?  Or is this meme a simple, never-to-be-enacted revenge fantasy for those who don’t quite have the options they might ideally prefer?

One thing the contemporary world definitely has not come to terms with is how much a highly feminized culture will be (rather strongly) enforcing new forms of discrimination, albeit cloaked under different and rhetorically emancipatory principles.

Addendum: Here is a statistics variant.

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