Month: August 2019

What happened to the right to choose your healthcare?

From atop the lecterns at the Democratic presidential debates and the White House, a common trope is dismantling and rejiggering how healthcare is delivered in America.

For the left, the emphasis is on expanding who can access government-backed health insurance programs while cutting off the role of the private sector. On the right, President Trump is looking to import drugs and pharmaceutical price controls from abroad.

Missing in both of these visions is the essential component that governs every other sector of the economy: the freedom to choose.

Much like housing, transportation, and education, it’s clear that the entire healthcare sector needs disruption.

We need out-of-the-box thinking, innovation, and on-demand delivery that will bring costs down for ordinary people. It’s this formula that has empowered millions to rise out of poverty, make a decent living for their families, and expand consumer choice to makes their lives better.

But both the Democrats and Trump are leading Americans astray on what really matters when it comes to healthcare.

Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris have serious proposals to totally ban the private healthcare market in favor of a “Medicare For All” system. That means every American would be thrown into the government insurance program reserved for our seniors.

All administration, billing, reimbursement claims, and hospital contracts for over 350 million people would be handled by the federal government. For a country as unique, diverse, and large as the United States, this just couldn’t be carried out effectively. The CBO’s analysis of a single-payer system admits that new taxes and an entirely new administrative bureaucracy would take years to implement.

Such plans would make it illegal for Americans to choose the type of healthcare coverage that fit them best, depriving them of fundamental choices.

This makes two grandiose and flawed assumptions. One, that a top-down government reorganization of insurance and health services would be the best method to deliver healthcare, and two, that the individual consumer cannot be trusted to make decisions about their care. That is wrong.

People choose different healthcare plans depending on their employment situation, their age, or their lifestyle.

Many younger working people, such as myself, don’t have comprehensive insurance because it doesn’t make economic sense. We’d rather pay out of pocket for small expenses and use high-deductible disaster insurance when necessary. The young and healthy tend to shy away from the large insurance plans for these very reasons.

For the 8.8 percent of Americans without health insurance, would they benefit from a mass reorganization of the system that would offer the care reserved for our seniors if the cost comes in the form of higher taxes and less consumer choice?

The same applies to Trump’s well-intended but flawed plans on importing drugs from single-payer systems around the world.

The reason pharmaceutical drugs are more expensive has more to do with subsidies than cost. Most drugs are born from innovative American firms but are subsidized greatly or negotiated for lower rates by governments who import them. Firms can afford this because it’s offset by American prices, meaning the rest of the world is freeriding on American innovation and intellectual property.

They achieve this by reducing access and choice. It’s no secret that the lion’s share of pharmaceutical drugs are available in the U.S. while they’re unavailable in the countries that refuse to pay for them. So yes, the prices of drugs may be cheaper in Canada or Norway, but the supply and choices are lacking. Do we want fewer choices of drugs for lower costs or more choices and prices at market rate?

What matters most when it comes to our personal health is the freedom to choose. Whether that it’s our doctor, insurance program, or drugs we buy, Americans want to be able to pick what works best from them. Grandiose plans that seek to completely reorganize how many taxes we pay and how we receive care would severely restrict that.

That may be a well-intended path, but one that millions of Americans are right to reject.  

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center

Published in the Chicago Tribune:

Published in Globe Gazette:

Canadians support paying blood plasma donors – survey

A majority of Canadians support paying people for donations of plasma, which are blood products used to make specialized medicines, a new poll has found.

Sixty-three per cent of Canadians endorse the idea as “morally appropriate” while support is strongest, at 75 per cent, among those between the ages of 18-34.

But a narrow majority of older Canadians, age 55 and up, believe paying people for plasma donations is “morally inappropriate”.

The donation of plasma is similar to blood donations, but the process takes longer, about two hours instead of 30 minutes.

Because of a lack of plasma supply in Canada, about 75 per cent of it used in this country comes from the U.S., where donors are paid.

Last week, Canadian Blood Services announced plans to open three plasma-only donation centres, including one in Kelowna scheduled to open in the spring of 2021, to try bolster the country’s supply.

The B.C. NDP government banned paid plasma in 2018, and similar bans exist in Alberta and Ontario.

The new survey, commissioned by the Consumer Choice Centre, found that 56 per cent of B.C. residents support paying plasma donors as “morally appropriate. Although a majority, that was the lowest level of support found in Canada’s six main regions.

Supporters of a ban on paying people for plasma donations say it may negatively affect blood donations, exploits the poor, and violates human dignity because blood should not be paid for.

Those who support payment for plasma donations say the process is safe, with no transmission of any diseases from paid-for plasma donors in the past 20 years, and it would address Canada’s plasma shortage.

Plasma, a yellow liquid that houses red and white blood cells, is increasingly used to make a variety of medicines for the treatment of conditions and illnesses such as burns, respiratory diseases, and immune deficiencies.

The usage of one plasma protein product, immune globulin, has doubled internationally over the past decade.

David Clement, Toronto-based representative of the Consumer Choice Centre, said in a release the results of the new opinion poll should convince governments the public supports payment for plasma donations.

“We have long argued that allowing compensation for blood plasma donors was overdue, and now we know that Canadians from coast to coast agree,” Clement said in a release.

In Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, where paid plasma clinics operate, donors are typically paid between $30-$50.

Donors must go through medical screening to ensure they’re healthy. Their plasma is subject to the same kind of analysis and treatment as other donated blood products to ensure it’s safe to use.

Read more here

We’re helping make Britain a biotech powerhouse

The temptation to drop everything and go to the beach instead of trying to understand recent events in UK politics has been very hard to resist these last few weeks. And yet, no CCC consumer advocate can be stopped by a heatwave.

Our team has been keeping an eye on Boris Johnson’s promises and first steps. Attentively, and with a cold drink in hand.

On the 25th of July, before Boris Johnson made his first speech as a prime minister, I escaped from the rush in the centre of London, sat at a nice cafe in Clapham, got myself a sugary soda, and the moment he went live I thought “let’s see what he’s going to be up to!”.

When closer to the end of his speech, he called for the liberation of the UK’s bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rule, we all realised we should step in and get consumer choice in science some spotlight! 

That’s how the idea of our brand new policy note, co-authored by Fred, Bill and myself came about. Our recommendations concern gene modification and gene engineering and are intentionally easy to comprehend 😉 Give it a read!

Cannabis legalisation has finally entered the agenda of political debate in Europe. As policymakers are starting to approach the topic, our David Clement and Yaël Ossowski are on standby to give them a piece of advice. Our April trip to Luxembourg keeps making waves in the media. Last week, our work on cannabis got featured in The Guardian:

‘Two representatives of the Consumer Choice Centre travelled to Luxembourg in April to offer their advice on legislation.

One area of contention is whether to ban the use of cannabis in public, which risks discriminating against tenants and people of limited means. The officials recommended allowing use of the drug in specific public areas.’

One could mistakenly think that getting cannabis legalised and enabling the growth of GM crops is the limit of our ambitions 🙂

But as the world is moving forward very fast and new technologies are entering the scene, CCC’s wishlist keeps growing by the day. 

If there is one thing that excites most people in the world, it is travelling. The revival of supersonic planes would make what was unimaginable in the past two decades come true once again. For example, flights between London and New York could be reduced from seven to three hours. More time for friends, family, and sightseeing 🙂

Our Bill Wirtz and Luca Bertoletti are looking forward to sharing their policy primer on supersonic travel with you. It’ll be published this month! 

As autumn is standing at the door, our team is in anticipation of many victories for consumer choice in Europe and globally. We are grateful for your support and, as always, we are aiming for the moon! 

All the best,

Maria Chaplia

Brexit opens up British biotech bonanza

The authors, Fred Roeder, Maria Chaplia, and Bill Wirtz, emphasise how timely the note is given Brexit approaching its final stage and Boris Johnson’s ambition to ‘liberate the UK’s bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules’.

“Revolutionising the UK biotech sector by allowing it to utilise the latest developments of genetic engineering in food production and healthcare is only possible if the existing restrictions are relieved and replaced with a more pro-consumer, pro-innovation, and prosperity-fostering approach,” said CCC managing director Mr Roeder.

“Driven by a noble aim ‘to protect human health and the environment and ensure consumer choice’, the strict legislation on GM products in the UK has, however, failed to recognise the advantages of gene modification and how it could benefit consumers. This foregone opportunity to encourage the progress of the UK biotech sector has left the UK far behind numerous countries,” added Ms Chaplia.

Mr Wirtz ventured: “GM pest-resistant crops could save about £60 million a year in pesticide use in the UK. This would be much welcomed by UK farmers and consumers. Moreover, £60 million in savings means more leeway for competitive food pricing within the country. With food prices in the EU rising by 2% annually, the UK could prove that food can become cheaper by more than just dropping tariffs, but also through more efficient and technologically advanced farming and by dropping non-tariff trade barriers such as the extremely strict EU GMO rules.”

Read more here

Luxembourg to be first European country to legalise cannabis

Two representatives of the Consumer Choice Centre, a US-based NGO, travelled to Luxembourg in April to offer their advice on legislation.

One area of contention is whether to ban the use of cannabis in public, which risks discriminating against tenants and people of limited means. The officials recommended allowing use of the drug in specific public areas.

Read more here

Synthetic farm chemicals boost harvest

This is a very dangerous and reckless preposition. As one commentator said, the conference was anti-science activism based on environmental fantasies.

“Agroecology as a political doctrine has no place in science-based policy discourse, and its promotion – given the scientific knowledge we have to today – is immoral. It needs to be stopped,” said Bill Wirtz, a policy analyst.

Read more here

Post-Brexit opportunity: making the internet less annoying

They’re cookies, and they’re not the delicious kind: internet cookies pop up on every new website we click on. The pop-up often says something like this: “We use cookies to help our site work, to understand how it is used, and to tailor the adverts presented on our site. By clicking “Accept” below, you agree to us doing so. You can read more in our cookie notice. Or, if you do not agree, you can click “Manage” below to access other choices.” What cookies do essentially is store information on your device on how and where you navigate on their website.

When retrieving the information from your device, the website knows what particularly caught your eye, and they can improve their website structure or marketing based on this data. However, cookies can also be useful to the user, in that it stores your password, and keeps you logged into your favourite social media platform or airline account. The way rules are today, you need to opt-in to allowing cookies to be stored.

It wasn’t always that way. Prior to the “Citizen’s Rights Directive“, users were assumed to having opted-in to the sites cookie policy, automatically and then explicitly opted-out if they wished. In 2009, this directive changed the approach from an opt-out to an opt-in, as it was with the privacy directive since 2002. This has created a wave of annoying pop-ups, that can sometimes block half the screen, and deteriorate user experience.

Part of the directive sets the rules regarding cookie consent, and only implies two instances for implicit consent (meaning you are assumed consenting to the use of cookies), both relating to providing a service that the user specifically requested. For instance, an online shop remembering what you put into your shopping cart, does not need explicit consent.

The reformed privacy regulation of the European Union – ePrivacy Regulation – is set to come into effect this year, but no reform of cookie consent riles is planned. This would continue the cycle of annoying cookies. However, implementations can vary. Germany has an opt-out approach, so long as data collected by cookies immediately undergo pseudonymisation and are kept in a pseudonymised state. Your cookie disclaimer in Germany will also always state that continued use of the website implies consent.

But there is an easier option already on the market. A well-reflected reform would put all cookie use under implicit consent, with the knowledge that users can use often free and already existing software that allows them to opt-out of all cookie use that they deem unsuited for them. This allows consumers to take their data use into their own hands, without an unnecessary and ineffective pop-up on every website. This could also be an integrated feature in browsers, that would allow consumers to easily navigate their privacy rules in one centralised place.

This represents yet another way in which regulatory independence would allow the UK to diverge from bad EU policies.

Bill Wirtz is a Senior Policy Analyst for the Consumer Choice Centre.

Originally published here

Deimantė Rimkutė. ES – pasaulio duomenų policininkė?

Lisabonos sutartimi visuotinai patvirtinta Europos Sąjungos Pagrindinių teisių chartija įtvirtino naują žmogaus teisę. Tai teisė į duomenų apsaugą. Tuomet dar niekas nežinojo, kokią įtaką globaliam pasauliui ji turės.

Nuo gero administravimo principo sudedamosios iki žmogaus teisės

Pirmasis Europos Sąjungos teisės aktas, reglamentuojantis duomenų apsaugą, patvirtintas 1995 m.. Tiesa, šioje direktyvoje duomenų apsauga pirmiausiai siejosi su gero administravimo principais. Laikui bėgant duomenų apsaugos traktavimas keitėsi ir jos svarbumas augo. 2009 m. Europos Sąjunga aštuntame Chartijos straipsnyje įtvirtindama teisę į duomenų apsaugą kaip žmogaus teisę tapo pasauline pioniere. Joks kitas tarptautinis teisės aktas, o tarp jų ir Tarptautinė pilietinių ir politinių teisių konvencija, jos prieš tai nenumatė.

Šis veiksmas akademiniame pasaulyje kėlė intriguojančias diskusijas. Dažniausiai duomenų apsauga buvo pateikiama kaip kitų teisių sudedamoji. Vokietijos konstitucinis teismas ją siejo su orumu, Prancūzijos su laisve. Ji taip pat buvo susijusi su daugeliu kitų: teise į privatumą, teise reikšti savo įsitikinimus, išpažinti religiją, saviraiškos laisve, teisingu teismu. Kilo klausimų, kas duomenų apsaugą pateisina kaip savarankišką žmogaus teisę? Matyt, kad grėsmė. Teisė tampa žmogaus teise, kai ji siejasi su tam tikromis svarbiomis vertybėmis, o šių apsaugai kyla pavojus.

Kaip teigia mokslininkas Yvonne McDermott, skaidrumas, nediskriminacija, individo autonomija, privatumas – yra vertybės, kurias šiandien, skaitmenizacijos amžiuje, užtikrinti vis sunkiau. Kai ankstesnių pramonės revoliucijų įkvėpimo šaltinis buvo i) mechanizacija, ii) elektra ir degalai, iii) atominė energija, ketvirtoji pramonės revoliucija pasižymi naujosiomis technologijomis, o tarp jų ir vis didėjančia duomenų svarba.

Ir nors visiškai užkirsti kelią laisvam duomenų tekėjimui – ne tik naivu, bet ir netikslinga, tačiau stengtis užtikrinti duomenų apsaugą bei apsaugoti Europos Sąjungos piliečius – svarbu ir pozityvu.
Šį tikslą tiek Europai, tiek visam likusiam laisvam pasauliui iškėlė Europos politikai. Na, o Chartijoje numatyta duomenų apsaugos kaip žmogaus teisės užuomina buvo realizuota Bendrajame duomenų apsaugos reglamente. Būtent šis veiksmas prie ES pavadinimo prilipino ,,duomenų policininko“ etiketę.

Jau paminėtos vertybės bei jų apsaugojimas šiuo metu realizuojamas Europos Sąjungos valstybės narėse. Privatumo idėja turi skirtingas interpretacijas, vieni ją gali sieti su mažesniais privatumo lūkesčiais, kiti su platesniu jų spektru, akivaizdu, kad vienais atvejais duomenų rinkimas pateisinamas, tačiau kitais – jis smerktinas ir proporcingai nereikalingas.

Žmogaus autonomija susijusi su savo paties galimybe duomenis kontroliuoti. Skaidrumas reiškia galimybę žinoti, kad duomenys gali būti apdorojami bei apdorojimo būdus. Nediskriminacija taip pat siejasi su skaidrumu, duomenų valdytojas turi užtikrinti prevencinius mechanizmus, kurie užkirstų kelią galimai diskriminacijai. Žinoma, pozityvus tikslas nebūtinai garantuoja norimą rezultatą.

Duomenų apsaugos kaip žmogaus teisės įgyvendinimo iššūkiai

Vienas iš pagrindinių iššūkių duomenų apsaugoje yra didelis kiekis savanoriškai teikiamų duomenų. Socialiniai tinklai, įvairūs prietaisai, kuriuos mes naudojame, renka duomenis apie mūsų biologinę, fizinę, elgsenos informaciją. Naujoji Daiktų interneto (Internet of Things) technologija gali prisidėti prie ne vien prie individualaus naudotojo duomenų rinkimo, bet ir prie jo aplinkoje esančių asmenų informacijos prieigos.

Kitas svarbus klausimas susijęs masiniu sekimu ir valstybių įsikišimo užmojo ribų nustatymu. Buvusio JAV Nacionalinės saugumo agentūros darbuotojo Edwardo Snowdeno informacijos nutekinimas atskleidė, kad visuotinis sekimas gali prisidėti prie teroristinių atakų grėsmės apčiuopimo. Taigi, šiandien susiduriame su sekimo metodų kismu ir aprėpties didėjimu.

Skaitmeninis amžius lemia, kad vis didesnės pastangos telkiamos į duomenimis grįstą sekimą (data surveillance). Akivaizdu, kad tai kuo toliau, tuo labiau kels vis daugiau klausimų, kas yra proporcingas duomenų gavimas, kada jis būtinas ir neišvengiamas.

Duomenų apsaugos klausimas iškyla ir tarptautinio bendradarbiavimo kontekste. Lyderiai neslepia, kad Europos Sąjunga siekia savo privatumo politiką eksportuoti į kitas valstybes bei nacionalinę jų teisę. Vienu atveju tai vyksta per prekybos susitarimus, kitu – per kitas tarptautines sutartis. Na, o gegužę Europos Komisija Pasaulio prekybos organizacijai pristatė e. komercijos taisykles, kurios apsaugotų vartotojus nuo galimų pažeidimų. Tai prisidėtų prie globalaus duomenų apsaugos teisės, kaip žmogaus teisės, pripažinimo.

Originally published here

Trump To Put 10% Tariffs On $300 Billion More In Chinese Imports

“Trump’s announcement about additional tariffs on Chinese goods will hit American consumers the hardest,” said David Clement, North American Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center, which represents consumers in more than 100 countries. “Given how interconnected the two economies are, it is ultimately American consumers who are going to be footing the bill for these new tariffs. Legislators need to better understand that tariffs on foreign products end up being a new tax for domestic consumers. Simply put, tariffs are taxes.”

Read more here

The Dow Dropped 98 Points Because Tariffs Might Finally Hit Home

Unlike the previous tranche of levies imposed since last year, the latest round will mostly target popular consumer products, including cellphones, laptops, apparel, and toys. “Trump’s announcement about additional tariffs on Chinese goods will hit American consumers the hardest,” David Clement, North American affairs manager of the Consumer Choice Center, said on Thursday after the announcement.

“Given how interconnected the two economies are, it is ultimately American consumers who are going to be footing the bill for these new tariffs. Legislators need to better understand that tariffs on foreign products end up being a new tax for domestic consumers. Simply put, tariffs are taxes,” Clement said.

Read more here

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