News — At The Edge — 3/2

Both the field of medicine and economic inequality are rapidly advancing — Medicare, medical AI, synthetic DNA, plutocrats — but crass special interests are afoot.


“Doctors, hospitals, drug companies and insurers are intent on strangling Medicare for all before it advances…[to] show Democrats what they are up against…[saying] Affordable Care Act is working reasonably well and should be improved, not repealed by Republicans or replaced by Democrats…[to] change the way health care providers do business and could drastically shrink the role and the revenues of insurers….

The hospital federation…America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, created a coalition…to pre-empt…proposals to expand the federal role in health care…[using] a daily fusillade of digital advertising, videos and Twitter posts….

[T]he Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, says…Medicare for all will require tax increases and give politicians and bureaucrats control of medical decisions….[Same] arguments…made to stop Medicare in the 1960s…Clinton’s health plan in 1993 and…Affordable Care Act….[by] the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the nation’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans….

[Whether] call it Medicare for all, Medicare buy-in, single payer or a public option’…[they’re] afraid…of a potent new competitor that will cut into their profits….

Medicare has lower administrative costs and lower executive salaries and could use its bargaining power to get better deals from hospitals and other health care providers….

Many people…[hold] their breath until they turn 65…[and] put off preventive screenings…[till] Medicare at 65’…..

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers can increase premiums with a person’s age, and older people who do not qualify for subsidies face the highest premiums….

[Coalition] wants to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act…expand federal subsidies under the health law so insurance will be affordable to more people…[and] stabilize premiums by persuading states to set up reinsurance programs, using a combination of federal and state funds to help pay the largest claims….

[The] coalition members have done well by the Affordable Care Act….[yet] Doctors and hospitals say Medicare generally pays less than private insurance, and hospitals say the payments frequently do not cover the costs….

The American College of Physicians, the largest medical specialty organization…has supported a Medicare buy-in for people 55 to 64…[and] represents 154,000 doctors who specialize in internal medicine.”

“[Medicine’s] incorporating AI as a standard tool, and it stands to be immensely useful — if it’s properly regulated…[otherwise] will be difficult to quantify benefits or prevent disasters issuing from systematic bias or poor implementation….

[Various] machine learning agents…are popping up in every room in the hospital, from the x-ray machine to the ICU…[and] may spot an anomaly on a lung scan, or hear arrhythmia in a resting patient, faster or more reliably than a nurse or doctor…[but] amounts to medical treatments and must be documented and tested with especial rigor….

’Regulatory standards for assessing algorithms’ safety and impact have not existed until recently….[while] evaluations of these algorithms, which are not as readily understandable by clinicians as previous algorithms, are not held to traditional clinical trial standards…[and] are not static products. Their inputs, often based on thousands of variables, can change with context…[and] predictive performance may change over time as the algorithm is exposed to more data….

[FDA] partially approved…the WAVE Clinical Platform, which watches vitals for trouble….[but] needs to be assessed on standards created with AI models in mind.

“Synthetic DNA seems to behave like the natural variety, suggesting that a broader swathe of chemicals could support life than the four that evolved on Earth…commonly referred to as G, C, A and T….

[Now] a synthetic, eight-letter genetic language that seems to store and transcribe information just like natural DNA…[implying] there is nothing particularly special about those four chemicals…[with] a pair named S and B, and another called P and Z…resulting eight-letter language ‘hachimoji’….

DNA has to follow predictable rules…[and] stable no matter what order the synthetic bases were in…to vary without the whole structure falling apart…[and] faithfully transcribed into RNA…for translating genetic information into proteins the workhorses of life….

[This] could be relevant in the search for signatures of life elsewhere in the Universe…[and] create RNA or DNA sequences that can do things better than the standard four letters, including functions beyond genetic storage…[and] create novel proteins as well as RNA.”

“The proliferation of billionaires shows that capitalism is malfunctioning and in need of reforms, including higher taxes on the ultra-wealthy….

Maximum tax rates in the richest countries fell from an average of 62 percent in 1970 to 38 percent in 2013, and inequality has surged. The number of billionaires has doubled over the past decade to 2,208. The collective wealth of the 26 richest people now equals that of the 3.8 billion poorest, whose total wealth fell last year….

Give a family with an annual income of $20,000 an extra $1,000 and it will make a big difference to their lives. Give a guy who makes $1 million an extra thousand and he’ll barely notice it’….

Maximum tax rates reached 90 percent in the late 1950s, and…remained at 70 percent…before plummeting during the Reagan administration…[and] U.S. economy ‘did just fine….

[The] ‘economies with greater equality perform better, with higher growth, better average standards of living and greater stability….[Inequality] in the extreme…[as] in the U.S….actually damages the economy’….

The wealthiest Americans ‘pay a smaller fraction of their income in taxes than those who are much poorer…[and] worsened with the 2017 tax bill’….

Economic inequality ‘translates into political inequality, which leads to rules that favor the wealthy, which in turn reinforces economic inequality’….

New York City and San Francisco…have two of the highest income-tax rates in the U.S., are ‘hubs of innovation’….The Internet and ‘nearly all the technologies in the iPhone (including GPS, Siri, and touchscreen)’ stemmed from federal research….[T]he energy sector, solar, nuclear, wind, and even shale gas were primed by public finance. Elon Musk’s…companies Solar City, Tesla, and Space X have received over $4.9 billion in public support’….

Extreme wealth ‘buys political power, it silences dissent….Philanthropy is not a substitute for democracy or proper taxation or a good welfare state’….

[T]he conservative claim that raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations will decrease investment and increase unemployment as a ‘con job’….

Today, more than half of humanity still lives on $7.40/day or less…[so] the ‘grand story of progress seems tepid, mediocre, and — in a world that’s as fabulously rich as ours — completely obscene’….

[Nobody] wants capitalism abolished…[but] want the wealthy to contribute their fair share.”

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May you live long and prosper!
Doc Huston

Consultant & Speaker on future nexus of technology-economics-politics, PhD Nested System Evolution, MA Alternative Futures, Patent Holder —