First News
Volume:7, Number:41
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Living
THIS WEEK

Laziness Can Be Contagious

Researchers found that people not only pick up on others' attitudes toward three personality characteristics -laziness, impatience, and prudence -but they may even start to imitate these behaviors, suggesting a strong social influence. The findings are notable, says lead author Jean Daunizeau, a researcher at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), because these three traits are typically thought to be unique among individuals. Prudence is a preference for avoiding risk, and impatience is a preference for options that involve little delay, and a strong desire for a payoff now rather than later. Lazy people are those who determine that the potential rewards are not worth the effort. The study was published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.

More Money, More Life

Studies in the British medical journal Lancet find that increasing inequality means wealthy Americans can now expect to live up to 15 years longer than their poor counterparts. Researchers said these disparities appear to be worsened by the American health system itself, which relies on forprofit insurance companies, and is the most expensive in the world. Their conclusion is that healthcare should be treated as a human right.

The Lancet studies looked at how the American health system affects inequality and structural racism, and how mass incarceration and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, have changed public health. Among the studies’ key findings: the richest 1 percent live up to 15 years longer than the poorest 1 percent; the same gap in life expectancy widened in recent decades, making poverty a powerful indicator for death. More than one-third of lowincome Americans avoid medical care because of costs compared to 7 percent in Canada and 1 percent in the UK. The poorest fifth of Americans pay twice as much for healthcare as a share of income (6 percent for the poor, versus 3.2 percent for the rich), and life expectancy would have grown 51.1 percent more from 1983 to 2005 had mass incarceration not accelerated in the mid-1980s.

The poorest Americans have suffered in particular, with life expectancies falling in some groups even while medicine has advanced. For example, researchers reported that the poorest fifth of women born between 1930 and 1960 statistically lived four years less than Americans in the top fifth of the socioeconomic spectrum. All of these health outcomes arrive in the context of widening general inequality. The share of total income going to the top 1 percent of earners has more than doubled since 1970, making the US more unequal than all but three developed countries: Chile, Mexico, and Turkey. At the same time, the ACA brought relief to many. The number of Americans without insurance dropped from 48.6 million in 2010 to 28.6 million in 2015. The number of Americans who struggle with medical bills dropped from 41 percent to 35 percent in 2014.

Further, accounting for current public health insurance programs, military healthcare, the portion of local and state budgets used to purchase private health insurance for workers, and subsidies to employers to buy workers health insurance, researchers believe as much as 65 percent of health insurance nationally is already paid for by taxpayers. The conclusions come at a tumultuous time for American healthcare. Donald Trump’s election threw his predecessor’s market-based health laws into question. Trump promised multiple times on the campaign trail to repeal the ACA and replace it with “something terrific”. Though Barack Obama’s signature health law insured more Americans than ever before, problems remain. Insurance companies have increasingly passed costs on to consumers through “cost-sharing”, or asking Americans to pay more for doctor’s visits, prescription drugs and procedures before insurance kicks in. Sky-high prescription drug prices have prompted public outrage. And a requirement that Americans purchase insurance, even with government subsidies, was politically toxic.

Though Republicans promised for more than seven years to repeal the ACA – if they could only gain control of the federal government – once Trump took office, they offered a plan not conservative enough for conservatives, and not moderate enough for moderates. With an abysmal public approval rating of just 17%, the plan combusted weeks after it was introduced. Failure to pass the bill became a major loss for the Trump administration. That has left a vacuum of ideas. Republicans tried and failed to resurrect a version of the hated plan to replace Obamacare. Progressives have expressed hope that singlepayer reform could move into the forefront. However, single-payer healthcare remains unpopular with American conservatives, who still control the government.

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