Saturday, May 11, 2013

Most effective learning techniques

From BigThink, a great article and chart on how we learn best:

Not at all surprised that summarization and highlighting are not effective.  I am a bit surprised that self-explanation is only moderately effective.  Self-explanation was the main motive for this blog, but maybe I should just take more health policy practice tests instead.

Oregon Medicaid Study

Just wanted to link to Tyler Cowen's terrific post on the Oregon Medicaid Study and provide a few thoughts of my own:
The key question here is how we should marginally revise our beliefs, or perhaps should have revised them all along (the results of this study are not actually so surprising, given other work on the efficacy of health insurance).  For instance should we revise health care policy toward greater emphasis on catastrophic care, or how about toward public health measures, or maybe cash transfers?  (I would say all three.)  One might even use this study to revise our views on what should be included in the ACA mandate, yet I haven’t heard a peep on that topic.  I am instead seeing a lot of efforts to distract our attention toward other questions.
I agree with his suggestions that health care policy should focus more on catastrophic care and public health.  I'm not sure how cash transfers would work, and I would like to see a study on that as well if possible.

As for actual measures by which the Affordable Care Act and our health care system should be modified in response to this, I have a couple of initial suggestions:

  1. A good first step might be to expand the catastrophic care provisions from young people (under ACA, only individuals 30 and under are allowed to buy catastrophic care plans) to a broader segment of the population.  
  2. We also might consider paring down the essential health benefits (EHBs), which require insurance companies to cover of a very large number of benefits.  If having more health insurance does not improve health outcomes, then it seems reasonable that our health insurance cover fewer benefits at the margins.  Substance abuse services and then preventive and wellness services would likely be the first EHBs on the chopping block.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Roman Catholic Church: Progressive force?

This took place back in the early 17th century, but credit where credit is due: 
Hunt managed to sell only a few of his captives before local Roman Catholic priests seized the rest--the Spanish Church vehemently opposed brutality toward Indians. (In 1537 Pope Paul III proclaimed that "Indians themselves are indeed true men" and should not be "deprived of their liberty" and "reduced to our service like brute animals.")  The priests intended to save both Tisquantum's body, by preventing his enslavement, and his soul, by converting him to Christianity.  It is unlikely that Tisquantum was converted, though it's possible that he allowed the friars to think he had been. 
From Charles C. Mann's surprisingly good book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.  Tisquantum was the true name of Squanto, from grade school history lore.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

On knowledge

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Yoni Applebaum on knowledge:
I think Yoni Applebaum gave the best advice some years back:
Choose the things about which you genuinely care, and come to know them deeply and well. Form your own judgments, and constantly question them. In other matters, attempt instead to ascertain the consensus of expert judgment. It will be right far more often than not. The only alternative is to form your own judgment upon every question, and I can assure you that you will be correct far less frequently. 

 If you encounter an attack upon a conventional piety that troubles you, first assess its source. Has its author taken the time or trouble to know his subject deeply or well? Then, assess its content. Does it seem sophisticated and convincing? If it meets those two tests, ask yourself how much you care to know about the matter. You can always add it to the list of things you wish to know deeply. But if you feel that you simply don't have the time, because of the realities of your life, then bracket your concerns and set them aside. The regnant consensus will do.
Great advice. You simply can't know everything, and you can't always be right. But you can be honest and you can be brave.