Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Monday, 30 September 2013

Half Of US Population Accounts For Only 2.9% Of Healthcare Spending; 1% Responsible For 21.4% Of Expenditures -

Half Of US Population Accounts For Only 2.9% Of Healthcare Spending; 1% Responsible For 21.4% Of Expenditures - 

With the topic of peak class polarization once again permeating the airwaves and clogging up NSA servers, and terms like 1% this or that being thrown around for political punchlines and other talking points, one aspect where social inequality has gotten less prominence, yet where the spread between the "1%" and everyone else is perhaps most substantial is in realm of healthcare spending: perhaps the biggest threat to the long-term sustainability of the US debt picture and economy in general. The numbers are stunning.

According to the latest data compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in 2010, just 1% of the population accounted for a whopping 21.4% of total health care expenditures with an annual mean expenditure of $87,570. Just below them, 5% of the population accounted for nearly 50% of all healthcare spending. Just as stunning is the "other" side: the lower 50 percent of the population ranked by their expenditures accounted for only 2.8% of the total for 2009 and 2010 respectively. Perhaps in addition to bashing the "1%" of wealth holders, a relatively straightforward and justified exercise in the current political climate, it is time for public attention to also turn to the chronic 1% (and 5%)-ers who are the primary issue when it comes to the debt-funding needed to preserve the US welfare state.

More of the report's findings:

In 2009, 1 percent of the population accounted for 21.8 percent of total health care expenditures and 20.5 percent of the population in the top 1 percent retained this ranking in 2009. The bottom half of the expenditure distribution accounted for 2.9 percent of spending in 2009; about three out of four individuals in the bottom 50 percent retained this ranking in 2010.
Those who were in the top decile of spenders in both 2009 and 2010 differed by age, race/ethnicity, sex, health status, and insurance coverage (for those under 65) from those who were in the lower half in both years.
Those in bottom half of health care spenders were more likely to report excellent health status, while those in the top decile of spenders were more likely to be in fair or poor health relative to the overall population.
While 15 percent of persons under age 65 were uninsured for all of 2010, the full year uninsured comprised 26.1 percent of those in the bottom half of spenders for both 2009 and 2010. Only 3.4 percent of those under age 65 who remained in the top decile of spenders in both years were uninsured for all of 2010.
Relative to the overall population, those who remained in the top decile of spenders were more likely to be in fair or poor health, elderly, female, non-Hispanic whites and those with public only coverage. Those who remained in the bottom half of spenders were more likely to be in excellent health, children and young adults, men, Hispanics, and the uninsured.


Art Exhibition Closes After 3 Patrons Suffer Apparent Seizures -

Art Exhibition Closes After 3 Patrons Suffer Apparent Seizures - 

Authorities have temporarily shut down a room-sized art installation with blinking lights in Pittsburgh, Pa. after three visitors reported seizure-like symptoms.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports the work titled “Zee” by Austrian artist Kurt Hentschlager opened Friday in downtown Pittsburgh.

An 18-year-old woman was treated at the scene Sunday afternoon after reporting seizure-like symptoms. District EMS chief Paul Sabol said she was the third person to report ill effects.

Before entering, patrons must sign a waiver that describes the exhibit as "intense stroboscopic light in combination with thick artificial fog, resulting in a loss of spatial orientation." People with photosensitive epilepsy, breathing or heart problems, migraines, claustrophobia or anxiety are warned not to go inside.

Sabol said changes could be made before the exhibit reopens. Hentschlager couldn't be reached for comment.

This isn’t the first time “Zee” has been blamed for seizures. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust spokeswoman Shaunda Miles tells the Tribune-Review that past exhibitions in 2008 and 2009 had similar seizure-like issues.


Flour Made From Insects Will Feed Underfed Populations - The product is called Power Flour -

Flour Made From Insects Will Feed Underfed Populations - The product is called Power Flour - 

Chew on this.

A team of MBA students were the recipients of the 2013 Hult Prize earlier this week, providing them with $1 million in seed money to produce an insect-based, protein-rich flour for feeding malnourished populations in other countries. The product is called Power Flour.

"It's a huge deal because we had a very ambitious but highly executable five-year plan in place," said team captain Mohammed Ashour, whose team hails from McGill University in Montreal. "So winning this prize is a great step in that direction."

Ashour, along with teammates Shobhita Soor, Jesse Pearlstein, Zev Thompson and Gabe Mott, will be immediately working with an advisory board to recruit farmers and workers in Mexico, where a population of roughly 4 million live in slum conditions with widespread malnutrition.

"We will be starting with grasshoppers," Ashour said.

He noted that the insect is already familiar to the local diet and currently sells at a premium because of a three-month harvesting season and because grasshoppers are typically hand-picked. But farmers have already expressed interest in raising grasshoppers on a mass level, according to Ashour.

While for Americans the idea of eating bugs remains mostly a novelty, in other areas of the world they are a common form of protein. The kinds of insects people consume from country to country varies, with the people of Ghana preferring palm weevils and in Botswana, caterpillars. The Power Flour product will vary ingredients according to those habits, adjusting production to the breeding cycles and nutritional profile of each culture.

In order to research their business plan, the members of the McGill Hult team have all consumed "kilos" of insects themselves, Ashour said.

"Shobhita was recently researching in Thailand and tried everything from worms to water beetles," he said.

Even Gabe Mott, who identifies as a vegetarian, has consumed his fair share of basil-flavored palm weevil.

"He's a vegetarian for ethical and ecological reasons, and when he looked at insects, for him it was really not an issue as far as being a source of protein that is ecologically balanced," said Ashour.


'TomTato': Potato-tomato hybrid unveiled... - and were not genetically modified -

'TomTato': Potato-tomato hybrid unveiled... - and were not genetically modified - 

TomTato plant

A plant that produces both tomatoes and potatoes, called the TomTato, has been developed for the UK market.

Ipswich-based horticultural firm Thompson and Morgan said the hybrid plants were not genetically modified.

Similar plants have been created in the UK, but the firm said it was thought to be the first time they had been produced on a commercial scale.

Guy Barter, of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), said it was looking at the plant with "real interest".

Mr Barter said many of these plants - created by a technique known as grafting - had been created before but taste had previously been a problem.

"We're looking at it with real interest because Thompson and Morgan are a really reputable firm with a lot to lose, but I wouldn't rule out that it could be a very valuable plant to them," said Mr Barter, who is a contributor to BBC Gardener's World.

"In the past we've never had any faith in the plants - they've not been very good - but grafting has come on leaps and bounds in recent years.

"Many people don't have that much space in their gardens and I imagine this sort of product would appeal to them."

Thompson and Morgan director Paul Hansord claimed the tomatoes were tastier than most shop-bought tomatoes and said the plant had taken a decade of work.

"It has been very difficult to achieve because the tomato stem and the potato stem have to be the same thickness for the graft to work," he said.

"It is a very highly skilled operation. We have seen similar products. However, on closer inspection the potato is planted in a pot with a tomato planted in the same pot - our plant is one plant and produces no potato foliage."

The firm said the plants last for one season and by the time the tomatoes are ready for picking, the potatoes can be dug up.

It added both ends of the plant had been tested for alpha-solanine - a poison that can be produced in both crops depending on growing and storage conditions - and it had been certified as safe.

A similar product, dubbed the "Potato Tom", was launched in garden centres in New Zealand this week.

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