Month: July 2021

Coalition Warns Against Broadband Proposals

The Consumer Choice Center joined a coalition of consumer and tax advocacy organizations flagging concerning developments in the infrastructure bill negotiations. Price controls and rate regulation; dramatic expansion of executive brand and agency authority; and government-controlled internet should never be on the table.

You can read the letter below or click HERE for a full version:

July 23, 2021

RE: Broadband Infrastructure Spending

Dear Senators:

We write to you today over some concerning developments in the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations on broadband. We are guided by the principles of limited government and believe that the flaws in the infrastructure framework go well beyond the issues discussed here. Nonetheless, our present aim is to advocate specifically against proposals that would enact price controls, dramatically expand agency authority, and prioritize government-controlled internet. 

The infrastructure plan should not include rate regulation of broadband services. Congress should not authorize any federal or governmental body to set the price of any broadband offering. Even steps that open the door to rate regulation of broadband services will prove harmful in the long run.  

Nor should Congress continue to abdicate its oversight responsibilities to executive branch agencies like the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Giving NTIA unchecked authority to modify or waive requirements, renders all guardrails placed by Congress meaningless. There must be oversight of the programs to ensure that taxpayer dollars go toward connecting more Americans to broadband as opposed to wasteful pet projects. 

Historically, attempts by NTIA to close the digital divide through discretionary grants have failed, leading to wasteful overbuilds, corruption, and improper expenditures. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created the $4 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant program administered by NTIA. From 2009, when BTOP was instituted, to 2017, at least one-third of all the reports made by the Inspector General for the Department of Commerce were related to the BTOP program, and census data showed that the BTOP program had no positive effect on broadband adoption. And this was with only $4 billion in taxpayer dollars. We cannot afford to make the same mistake with much greater sums.

Legislation must be clear and not create ambiguities that are left to the whims of regulators. While “digital redlining” is unacceptable, the FCC should not be allowed to define the term however it sees fit and promulgate any regulations it thinks will solve problems—real or imagined. Doing so would give the agency carte blanche to regulate and micromanage broadband in any way it desires. This would be an egregious expansion of FCC authority. Moreover, definitions and regulations could change whenever party control of the agency changes, leading to a back-and-forth that creates uncertainty for consumers and businesses. 

Legitimate desire to ensure that low-income Americans have access to broadband infrastructure should not be used as a smokescreen to codify aspects of the recent Executive Order on Competition, which should not be included in any bipartisan infrastructure agreement. Republicans fought hard to support the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Any legislating on the functions and deployment of Internet technologies must move as a standalone bill through regular order with committee review. These questions are far too important to shoehorn into a massive bill without rigorous debate.   

Any funding for broadband buildout must target locations without any broadband connection first, and this should be determined by the Congressionally mandated FCC broadband maps. Congress has oversight over the FCC and the FCC has already conducted several reverse auctions. Reverse auctions get the most out of each taxpayer dollar towards closing the digital divide. Areas where there is already a commitment from a carrier to build out a network, should not be considered for grants, and the NTIA should not be able to override the FCC’s map to redefine “unserved” and subsidize duplicative builds.  

Government-controlled Internet should not be prioritized in any grant program. With few exceptions, government-owned networks (GONs) have been abject failures. For example, KentuckyWired is a 3,000-mile GON that was sold to taxpayers as a $350 million project that would be complete by spring of 2016. Those projections could not have been more wrong.   More than five years past the supposed completion date, fiber construction for KentuckyWired is still “in progress” in some parts of the state and a report from the state auditor has concluded that taxpayers will end up wasting a whopping $1.5 billion on this redundant “government owned network” over its 30-year life. NTIA should certainly not encourage these failures to be replicated.

We appreciate your work to help close the digital divide and agree that access to reliable internet is a priority, however we should not use this need to serve as a cover for unnecessary government expansion. Please feel free to reach out to any of the undersigned organizations or individuals should you have questions or comments. 

Regards,

Grover G. Norquist
President
Americans for Tax Reform

Jennifer Huddleston*
Director of Technology & Innovation Policy
American Action Forum

Phil Kerpen
President
American Commitment

Krisztina Pusok, Ph. D.
Director
American Consumer Institute
Center for Citizen Research

Brent Wm. Gardner
Chief Government Affairs Officer
Americans for Prosperity

Jeffrey Mazzella
President
Center for Individual Freedom

Andrew F. Quinlan
President
Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Jessica Melugin
Director Center for Technology and Innovation
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Matthew Kandrach
President
Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director
Consumer Choice Center

Roslyn Layton, PhD
Founder
China Tech Threat

Ashley Baker
Director of Public Policy
The Committee for Justice

Tom Schatz
President
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Katie McAuliffe
Executive Director
Digital Liberty

Annette Thompson Meeks
CEO
Freedom Foundation of Minnesota

Adam Brandon
President
FreedomWorks

George Landrith
President
Frontiers of Freedom

Garrett Bess
Vice President
Heritage Action for America

Carrie Lukas
President
Independent Women’s Forum

Heather Higgins
CEO
Independent Women’s Voice

Tom Giovanetti
President
Institute for Policy Innovation

Ted Bolema
Executive Director
Institute for the Study of Economic Growth

Seton Motley
President
Less Government

Zach Graves
Head of Policy
Lincoln Network

Matthew Gagnon
Chief Executive Officer
Maine Policy Institute

Matthew Nicaud
Tech Policy Specialist
Mississippi Center for Public Policy

Brandon Arnold
Executive Vice President
National Taxpayers Union

Tom Hebert
Executive Director
Open Competition Center

Ellen Weaver
President & CEO
Palmetto Promise Institute

Eric Peterson
Director
Pelican Center for Technology and Innovation

Lorenzo Montanari
Executive Director
Property Rights Alliance

Jeffrey Westling
Resident Fellow, Technology & Innovation Policy
R Street Institute

James L. Martin
Founder/Chairman
60 Plus Association

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis
President
60 Plus Association

David Williams
President
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Dann Mead Smith
President
Washington Policy enter

Mark Harmsworth
Small Business Director
Washington Policy Center

Some Bright Spots In President Biden’s Executive Order on Competition

Earlier this month, as Americans finished up the 4-day work week to enjoy midsummer weather, President Biden unveiled an executive order on promoting competition in our economy.

While it contains several aspects that could negatively impact consumers, there are also some bright spots that could help spark new innovations, remove red tape, and help reduce prices.

For one, Biden’s executive order creates a new White House Competition Council, made up of various department and agency heads. The council will address “overconcentration, monopolization, and unfair competition,” hoping to empower consumers and better police powerful industries.

It aims to reduce barriers to entry for new market competitors. This will be a key forum for changing laws, regulations, and taxes that all too often restrict competition and consumer choice. That is a positive step.

Also laudable are rules on hospital price transparency, easing occupational licensing, and the prospect of open banking. But removing harmful subsidies that raise prices for consumers, including for farmers, airlines, and Amtrak, would help bolster competition even more.

Unfortunately, too much of Biden’s focus is on regulating business rather than freeing up outdated rules.

One example is the focus on antitrust provisions that seek to break up monopolies and redefine 21st-century antitrust actions. 

This is commendable, but only if agencies uphold the legal principle of the consumer welfare standard, ensuring that antitrust focuses on how consumers, not markets, are impacted. Ideological trustbusting could end up harming consumers and small businesses that rely on those companies.

Lately, lawsuits against various tech giants have been rejected because states and agencies have not been able to prove that certain mergers and acquisitions — such as Facebook’s 2011 purchase of Instagram, once deemed as laughable — were monopolistic.

Rather than trying to break up companies, the administration should focus on areas where regulations are propping up companies and bad regulations at the expense of you and me.

Large airlines like American Airlines have received bailouts for decades, while low-budget airlines without sway in Washington are essentially regulated out of contention. Allowing bankruptcies and consolidation would actually help improve services offered to passengers while saving taxpayers money.

Scrapping fossil fuel subsidieshigh permit fees for electric vehicles, and repealing cabotage laws such as the Jones Act to allow foreign ships and airlines to serve American ports and airports, could also help reduce prices and improve consumer choice.

Though Biden is an Amtrak fan, his administration should welcome competition. That would mean allowing private railway firms to use existing rail lines, and scrapping the planned $80 billion in subsidies in the massive infrastructure bill currently sitting in Congress. In 50 years of service, the quasi-public Amtrak has failed to turn a profit at least once. Getting out of the way so private competitors could compete would be a huge boon to consumers and innovators.

For the alcohol market, Biden is on track. He outlines “unnecessary trade practice regulations” that artificially raise the prices of our favorite beers, wines, and spirits. But state monopolies on the sale of spirits, as well as uneven taxation between classes of alcohol, are classic cases where consumers would benefit from a more competitive market.

Promoting the interests of consumers, especially those who benefit from market innovations and smart policy, is a bold and needed change from our federal government. If they are to succeed, however, it will require wholesale retooling of outdated rules and regulations, not just increased scrutiny on big business.

Originally published here.

NM Coalition Makes Speedier Push for Electric Vehicles

New Mexicans who want to impact climate change by driving an electric vehicle have several roadblocks, and they won’t end soon if the state fails to take action before the end of this year.

Two years ago, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order committing New Mexico to essential climate-change goals.

The order included a requirement that auto manufacturers deliver more electric vehicles to the state, but the timeline for a necessary rule-making process to adopt Advanced Clean Cars Standards has come and gone twice, and been postponed a third time.

Tammy Fiebelkorn, New Mexico representative for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, said cleaner cars are crucial to address climate change.

“We have these goals of reducing our greenhouse gases and meeting our climate goals that are in the executive order that the governor signed, but until we can get some electric vehicles sold here, we’re not going to meet the transportation one,” Fiebelkorn cautioned.

Southwest Energy Efficiency is among a coalition of groups that filed a formal petition asking the state to adopt Advanced Clean Cars Standards by year’s end, a deadline state officials have said can not be met.

New Mexico has installed more than 100 electric-vehicle charging stations in various locations, but only about 1,200 plug-in electric vehicles are currently on the roads.

Fiebelkorn pointed out the adoption of rules to govern Advanced Clean Car Standards is fairly straightforward because they must be identical to those of other states. She added New Mexico may be unable to implement standards until 2026 if it misses a December deadline.

“Because of the way the standards are written, you have to wait two model years,” Fiebelkorn explained. “And so if we can get it in this year, then that lets us implement a whole year sooner.”

When it comes to purchasing an electric vehicle, the Consumer Choice Center ranked New Mexico and 16 other states in the “barely accessible” category, a notch above nine other states where they are totally “inaccessible,” either because direct-to-consumer sales are banned, or extra registration fees are exorbitant.

Nationwide, electric vehicles represent less than 1% of all vehicles on the road. 

Originally published here.

More Effective E-Cig Regulations Could Save Approximately 200 Million Lives

A recent study of 61 countries and their e-cigarette regulations, has indicated that setting place more effective vape regulations could save the lives of almost 200 million people.

recent study conducted by The World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA) together with the Consumer Choice Center, examined 61 countries and their subsequent e-cig regulations. The research team used the UK’s progressive tobacco harm reduction policies, which endorse the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation as a reference point. Then they analysed how many current smokers would be encouraged to switch in each of the other countries, if they had access to such a permissive framework.

After compiling data from these countries, the research team concluded that with a regulatory regime which facilitates and encourages e-cigarettes as a means to quit smoking, 196 million of current smokers in those countries could switch to vaping.

Director of the World Vapers’ Alliance, Michael Landl, said that this data indicates just how great the potential of e-cigarettes is for public health. “While the benefits of vaping as an alternative to smoking have been known for some time, today’s research shows just how significant the potential is: almost 200 million lives saved. If COVID has shown us anything, it’s that our health is paramount and regulators that want people to quit smoking need to be led by science and ensure that ideology takes a back seat to pragmatism.”

The results speak for themselves

Infact in the UK, approximately 25% fewer people smoke today than they did in 2013 when vaping became popular, and the nation is even boasting the lowest smoking rates recorded since cigarettes came on the scene. France, Canada and New Zealand whose approach is more similar to the UK, are also seeing positive results. On the other hand, Australia, one of the countries with the toughest vaping regulations, has witnessed only a mere 8% decline during the same period.

“Smart rules on advertising e-cigarettes to smokers, displaying e-cigarettes at the point of sale for cigarettes, lower rates of taxation for e-cigarettes, and public health bodies endorsing the evidence of vaping being at least 95% less harmful than traditional smoking, everything that the UK has done right, can help save the lives of thousands of smokers by helping them switch to vaping,” said Fred Roeder, Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, said about the report.

The PHE’s latest report on vaping

In the UK, Public Health England (PHE) is renowned for recommending switching from smoking to vaping, and  progressive frameworks for vaping have been introduced accordingly. Carried out by researchers at the renowned King’s College London, the organization’s seventh independent report on vaping in England, was commended by tobacco harm reduction experts.

The report highlighted the following points:

  • “Vaping is the most popular aid (27.2%) used by smokers trying to quit in England in 2020
  • More than 50,000 smokers stopped smoking in 2017 with the aid of vaping
  • 38% of smokers believed that vaping is as harmful as smoking while 15% believed that vaping is more harmful”

Originally published here.

The best way to preserve the sharing economy is not to intervene

Throughout the pandemic, the sharing economy has proved to be one of the most resilient models of human interaction.

Food delivery apps played an important role in preserving our sanity during quarantines and lockdowns, and ride hailing apps made it possible for us to see our loved ones when public transport was inaccessible. However, as a result of travel restrictions, some sectors of the sharing economy have suffered severe losses. 

The latest Consumer Choice Center’s Sharing Economy Index examines the impact the pandemic has had on the sharing economy in 50 cities globally. The index’s main goal is to inform consumers about the variety of sharing economy services at hand. To measure global sharing economy friendliness, the index looks at the availability and access to ride-hailing, flat-sharing services, e-scooters, professional car sharing, peer-to-peer car rental, and gym sharing. 

Some governments have sought to use the pandemic as a pretext to further restrictions of consumer choice in the said fields. For example, in June 2020, Amsterdam banned short-term accommodation rentals including Airbnb from operating in the three districts of its historical centre. Fortunately, the ban was overturned in March this year. 

Similarly, in June 2020, Lisbon’s mayor pledged to “get rid of Airbnb” once the coronavirus pandemic is over. However, Airbnb is still available in the city, and hopefully remains so.

According to the findings of the 2021 Sharing Economy Index, The top 10 cities according to the index are Tallinn, Tbilisi, São Paulo, Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw, Kyiv, Mexico City, Oslo, Stockholm.

On the other hand, Minsk, Valletta, Amsterdam, The Hague, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Nicosia, Sofia, Tokyo, Athens, Luxembourg City found themselves at the very bottom of the list.

Eastern Europe continues to have a more liberal attitude towards the sharing economy while Western and Central European countries stick to the restrictive approach. Both Nordic capitals — Stockholm and Oslo — are among the top sharing economy friendly cities in the world. Similarly, their Northern European neighbours — Tallinn, Vilnius, and Riga — also score highest in the Index. 

Tallinn remains the most sharing economy friendly city. lts low level of regulation of ride-hailing and flat-sharing services along with openness to e-scooters and outstanding innovation in the digital space helped take it to the first place. Estonia is well-known for its booming digital state, and the fact there is even a carpooling app for kids reinforces this fact.

Although the 2021 Index’s results weren’t significantly different from the last year’s, and Eastern and Northern European cities seem to lead the way on peer-to-peer exchange, there are signs that this might soon change, too. As the sharing economy services gain popularity, the temptation to overregulate them grows exponentially. Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, for example, might soon become the next European city to ban e-scooters from sidewalks. 

Europe needs to approach the regulation of the sharing economy in a smart way, and that implies putting consumers, and their needs, first. Excessive taxation and bureaucracy in the form of various permits do more harm than good and make consumers foot the bill. As we are recovering from the pandemic, we need to encourage Europeans to effectively exchange their assets with each other and to make the most out of them. The best way to do that is not to get out of the way.

Originally published here.

More plastics bans will not impact the environment but will impact consumers


“Up to 95% of all plastic found in the world’s oceans comes from just 10 source rivers, which are all in the developing world.”

Policy makers at all levels have declared effective war on plastics. Municipalities have enacted water bottle bans, provinces have sought to restrict or prohibit the sale of certain items, and the federal government has gone so far as to classify all plastic as “toxic” under the Canadian Environment Protection Act. 

The arguments against these policies have been well documented. Alternatives to single use plastics are almost always worse for the environment based on a life cycle analysis, and there are new innovations available to use that actually deal with the issue of mismanaged plastic waste, rather than using the long arm of the state to ban items.

All of that said, you would think that the environmental activists who pushed for these policies would be content with their policy victory, but they aren’t. As always, they want more, which ultimately means more government involvement in the economy, and in the lives of consumer.

Oceana, for example, was one of the loudest voices calling for all sorts of heavy-handed policies to deal with plastic waste. Unfortunately, Canadians have given these advocates an inch, and now they want to take a mile.

Just this month Oceana launched a new campaign titled “A Plastic Free July” where they are calling on the government to drastically expand on their incoming single use plastic ban to almost everything except medical devices. Their statement reads “As currently proposed, the federal government’s ban on six single-use plastics covers less than one percent of the plastic products we use – a drop in the bucket for an ocean drowning in plastic waste.”

Oceana is right, those products represent a small percentage of the plastic that ends up in our oceans. But their conclusion that we need to “ban more things” won’t magically mean that there is less plastic in the ocean, mostly because Canadians, and single use plastics, are not responsible for the vast majority of mismanaged plastic in our oceans. 

Up to 95% of all plastic found in the world’s oceans comes from just 10 source rivers, which are all in the developing world. Canada on average, contributes less than 0.01 MT (millions of metric tonnes) of mismanaged plastic waste. In contrast, countries like Indonesia and the Philippines contribute 10.1% and 5.9% of the world’s mismanaged plastic, which is upwards of 300 times Canada’s contribution. China, the world’s largest plastics polluter, accounts for 27.7% of the world’s mismanaged plastic. Canada, when compared to European countries like England, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France, actually contributes four times less in mismanaged plastic. The only European countries on par with Canada are the significantly smaller Sweden, Norway and Finland

Beyond the fact that Canadians are not significant contributors to the issue of marine plastic waste, most of the plastic in our oceans, regardless of the source country, isn’t from consumer products at all. Approximately 50% of all plastic in the ocean comes directly from the fishing industry, who often carelessly dump used nets in the ocean, which is a serious problem in need of a solution.

These two inconvenient truths should raise immediate red flags as to the efficacy of plastic bans, and should cause us to outright reject calls for more bans on consumer products. These bans won’t make any serious impact on the issue of plastic waste in our oceans, all while making life more expensive for ordinary Canadians, while pushing them to alternative products with a higher environmental impact. 

Rather than caving to a call for expanded bans, or the silly idea of a “Plastic Free July.” we should instead narrow our sights on empowering innovators to solve these problems. Incredible technologies have been created in Alberta in the past few years to deal with plastic waste, which include taking single-use products and turning them into everything from resin pelletstiles for your home and even road asphalt. Even better, scientists have now figured out a way to take these problematic plastics, flash heat them, and turn them into graphene, which is currently priced at around $100,000/tonne and has tremendous potential in the construction industry.

We realistically have two paths to deal with the plastic waste we produce. We can seek to ban items that people use, which will inflate prices and have no serious impact on marine waste. Or, we can lean on innovators to remove plastic from the environment and extend the lifespan of those plastics indefinitely, while creating jobs and lowering costs. When faced with this fork in the road, the superior path forward is pretty obvious.

Originally published here.

Opinion: Learn from Britain — a junk food ad ban is a bad idea

The outdated playbook of trying to tax and ban things out of existence in a misguided effort to change people’s behaviour

Childhood obesity rates have nearly tripled in the last 30 years. Almost one in three Canadian children is overweight or obese, according to data from Statistics Canada. In an effort to tackle this growing problem, Health Canada has announced it is considering sweeping new legislation to restrict junk food advertising.

A similar plan was mooted but not adopted a few years back, but public health regulators now feel empowered to push this tired idea partly because the British government recently signed off on a new law banning television advertisements before nine in the evening for foods high in sugar. Health Canada says it is examining the British law and recommitting to implementing something similar in Canada.

The months the British government has spent dancing around this issue ought to be enough to ward off any right-thinking Canadian. The law it eventually came up with was a watered-down version of the original proposal, which would have banned all online advertising of anything the government considered “junk food.” Bakeries could have been committing a crime by posting pictures of cakes to Instagram.

The U.K. government now promises its new legislation will eliminate that possibility. But that doesn’t mean the ban is a useful public policy tool. First and foremost, ad bans simply do not work. The British government’s own analysis of its policy predicts it will remove a grand total of 1.7 calories from kids’ diets per day. That’s roughly the equivalent of 1/30th of an Oreo cookie.

It’s safe to assume the same policy would have similarly underwhelming results here in Canada. It won’t help reduce child obesity but it will make life more complicated for the country’s food industry. All this, just as the world enters a post-COVID economic recovery and countries like Britain and Canada need growth and investment more than ever.

The junk food ad ban was pushed through in the U.K. on the back of a sinister campaign weaponizing children’s voices. As the government wrapped up its public consultation on the proposal, it lauded a conveniently timed report supposedly highlighting the crying need for such a drastic policy intervention. The report — or “exposé,”’ as it was branded — was cooked up by Biteback 2030, a pressure group fronted by celebrity chefs and Dolce & Gabbana models. Absent hard evidence or coherent arguments for the centralization of decision-making on a matter as fundamental as what to have for dinner, it made its point by shamelessly putting interventionist politics into children’s mouths.

“I’m a 16-year-old boy,” read its introduction. “I feel like I’m being bombarded with junk food ads on my phone and on my computer. And I’m pretty sure this is getting worse.” Canadians who value free markets and individual liberties should be on the lookout for similar tactics from nanny-statists bent on drowning entire industries in red tape and consigning any notion of freedom of choice to the history books. It is incredibly paternalistic for the government to limit what advertisements adult consumers can see, as the ban would eliminate the targeted ads from all TV programming before nine p.m.

There is plenty Canada can do to fight obesity without resorting to blanket advertising bans, following the outdated playbook of trying to tax and ban things out of existence in a misguided effort to change people’s behaviour. The ban completely ignores the other half of the obesity equation, which is of course physical activity.

Obesity is a serious problem. It could even become the next pandemic. But as this junk food ad ban statement from Health Canada shows, powerful public health regulators are asleep at the wheel. They claim to be acting in Canadians’ best interest but they have nothing new to add to the policy debate.

Originally published here.

Dental Insurance Is the Next Industry That Badly Needs Reform

In the last decade, most debate and discussion on reforms related to healthcare have focused on Americans’ general health insurance plans and costs. And for good reason.

And though our health system is convoluted and complicated, it gets even more complex when we examine what is happening with dental care.

The intersection of hefty insurance premiums, confusing government benefits, and a red tape bonanza keep many Americans from ever visiting a dentist’s office.

Even though 80 percent of Americans have access to dental benefits, nearly 35 percent of American adults didn’t visit a dentist in 2019, according to the National Association of Dental Plans.

The reason so many neglect getting their teeth checked is clear in the data: the mounting cost.

And modern dental insurance, coupled with a myriad of various government programs, is a big reason for that.

Unlike most healthcare plans, dental plans have low caps on the number of benefits they will pay out, anywhere between $1,000-$1,500 a year. Premiums average $30-$50 per month depending on the plan and the number of people covered.

Because patients use dental insurance to cover all aspects of their care, rather than emergencies, this adds to an inflation of the price of rudimentary care, a phenomenon dubbed the “social consequences problem” by economists.

That problem gets even more complicated considering that nearly all dental patients don’t choose their plans themselves.

At present, 93 percent of privately insured dental patients receive coverage from their employers, meaning there is little incentive to innovate direct-to-consumer options that would offer competition.

This incentive problem, along with a relatively opaque dental insurance market, means costs will continue to riseunless we can agree on simple reforms to increase competition and transparency in the dental insurance market.

To do so, state legislatures and Congress should first look to encourage patients who choose membership programs as dental plans, rather than traditional insurance. Using Health Savings Accounts to buy these memberships, as well as pay for care, would be a huge improvement that would empower patients to contract their own care.

This would be similar to the movement of direct primary care doctors, who offer direct monthly subscriptions to patients and don’t accept insurance. Removing the insurance middleman means less bureaucracy, less red tape, and more time with patients. As a plus, prices are transparent and fair. That alone would provide better competition and prices for patients in need.

This would lead to a larger decoupling of health and dental insurance from employers, allowing patients and consumers to choose the plan that works best for them and their families.

On the note of transparency, state legislatures should hold the dental insurance industry accountable with simple reforms that empower patients when choosing their dentists.

Assignment of benefits laws, already passed in states like Colorado and Illinois, allow patients to choose whether they want insurance companies to directly pay dental clinics, freeing patients from having to pay upfront and negotiate with insurance companies for reimbursement.

Similarly, network leasing regulations, allowing dental clinics to revise and opt-in to insurance networks rather than being automatically forced into them, would keep prices low and transparent, not to mention predictable before you even step into the dentist’s chair.

As legislatures look to reform healthcare, we should also keep in mind the growing dental bills facing Americans every day, and hope lawmakers understand the need for more competition and transparency to better improve dental care in our country.

Encouraging competition to traditional dental insurance, while promoting simple regulations to promote financial transparency, will serve to empower consumers and lower the costs of care.

That would be bold and revolutionary for patients and would help encourage innovation in a sector where it has not always been the most welcome.

Originally published here.

Health Canada coughs up counterintuitive vape policy

Ban on flavoured vape juice, nicotine limits will push smokers back to cigarettes

Just when it was thought to be safe to vape rather than smoke cigarettes, the Trudeau Liberals are unwittingly conspiring to resurrect the age-old sin of cigarette smoking.

They don’t think this will happen of course, but it will

On July 19, as per the federal Gazette, the Liberals of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce new regulations to not only reduce the nicotine level in e-cigarette vaping products but ban flavoured vape liquids beyond tobacco and menthol/mint.

“Health Canada is pushing smokers back to smoking cigarettes and into the arms of ‘Big Tobacco’,” says Shai Bekman, president of DashVapes Inc., Canada’s largest independently owned e-cigarette company.

Ontario’s pre-emptive move to ban vape flavours will affect the big-name e-cigarette brands that sell primarily in convenience stores, such as Juul and Vype.

Both companies sell e-cigarette pods that come in flavours such as cucumber, mango, strawberry, and vanilla.

But what is Health Canada thinking?

According to various experts in sociological behaviour, and confirmed in many peer-reviewed articles, rather than reduce smoking, this will eventually drive vapers back to real cigarettes and, because of the severe 70-plus per cent tax on smokes, will also cause increased demand for contraband cigarettes.

After all, if you’re going to smoke, why pay a heavily taxed $20 a pack when a trip to the friendly smoke shack on any Mohawk reserve in Ontario and Quebec will get you a tax-free pack for as little as $4?

As David Clement, North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Centre recently wrote in the Financial Post, “our federal government is ignoring what is working abroad and is rejecting its usual governing principle of harm reduction.

“Curbing youth access to vape products is very important but banning flavours for adult smokers trying to quit tobacco is a huge mistake, one that could have deadly consequences,” said Clement.

“Approximately 1.5 million Canadians use vape products, most of them smokers trying to quit. Research on consumer purchasing patterns shows that 650,000 of those vape users currently rely on flavours that would be prohibited if the ban goes through.”

In May, also in the Financial Post, Fred O’Riordan, a former director-general at Revenue Canada, said “ the federal budget had something for everyone, including contraband traders.

“Their unexpected gift came in the form of a $4 per carton increase in excise duties on legally manufactured cigarettes, a sharp increase that may mark the end of one era — in which tax policy was an effective tool to control tobacco use — and the beginning of another.

”More smokers will switch to readily available and far cheaper contraband products,” he wrote.

“(This) will be bad for the health side of policy, especially for young people since illegal sellers do not ask for proof-of-age ID.”

The purpose of tobacco taxes, of course, is to raise revenues, but projections have been falling for years.

Last November, the Canada Revenue Agency estimated the 2014 loss in federal excise duty revenue from illegal cigarettes — the so-called “tax gap” — at about $483 million.

Lost provincial tax revenues would more than double that estimate. And those “latest” numbers are seven years old.

What’s needed is the ballsy move of reducing tobacco taxes enough to make buying contraband a non-thought. Ontario Premier Mike Harris did this and sin-tax tobacco revenues predictably went up.

And keep flavoured vapes — the mango, the vanilla and even the bubble-gum, all of which are also sold on reserves.

Health Canada has to stop being so counterintuitive.

It’s not working.

Originally published here.

Jacksonville Vette included in National Corvette Day poster

The Corvette is celebrating its 68th anniversary this year. with eight generations produced since the first C1 model premiered on June 30, 1953. So it’s no surprise that June 30 was officially designated “National Corvette Day” by Congress back in 2008. So the Hagerty Drivers Foundation celebrated that anniversary this year with a poster showing all eight generations.

The collection includes a Jacksonville family’s white C7 Corvette in the lower left. And its photo, plus the sunny image of the Polo White 1953 C1 in the upper left, were taken by local photographer Nick Williams.

The Corvette was born out of the fertile mind of GM Chief Designer Harley J. Earl in the early 1950s, dreaming of an American sports car, yet inspired by the great European sports cars of the time. In 1953, Earl introduced the Corvette as his latest “dream car” at GM’s Motorama show in New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel grand ballroom, and it was a hit. The fiberglass body C1 roadster appeared the next year, the first 300 built in Flint. But for the past 30 years, the mid-engine C8 is built in Bowling Green, Ky.

Originally a Chrysler air-conditioning unit factory, the facility was completely refurbished into a modern automotive facility. Since then, the facility has doubled in size, and Bowling Green has remained the exclusive home of the Corvette for over 30 years.

MINI unveils EV van

MINI has unveiled a real Vision Urbanaut concept car, six months after it showed off the design as a “virtual vision,” so people can “engage more extensively with the spatial concept and sustainable materials at work,” it said. Premiered July 1 at the DLD Summer conference in Munich, the all-electric people mover is a sleek rounded box with a lounge-like cabin that can be configured to fit the passengers it’s carrying,. And MINI has also created three profiles called Chill, Wanderlust, and Vibe, allowing the exterior and interior to change to “reflect the MINI moment at hand,” it says.

That includes fragrance, sound and ambient lighting. For example, Chill makes the interior into a kind of retreat to relax or work with full concentration. There’s a glass roof, small inside table and front seats that rotate so occupants can join the chat. And the Wanderlust mode allows the Urbanaut to be driven, a tap on a MINI logo unfolds the steering wheel and pedals from a cushioned front shelf.

Caffeine and Octane is here

The new Caffeine and Octane Jacksonville premieres at 8 a.m. Saturday at The Avenues mall at 10300 Southside Blvd. And organizers have issued a map to show where some of the expected hundreds of classics, sports cars and exotics can show off until 11 a.m. at the revived mega-cruise in on the east side of the mall.

As the map shows, vehicles in the Central Lot (red) must remain in place until 11 a.m., so do not park there if you are not able to stay, 11am. Exhibit Lots (blue on map), Exotics Lot and the Porsche Corner (far right) allow participant vehicles to come and go throughout the event, although cruising is not allowed for safety reasons. The Exhibit Lots are also the best option for clubs and large same make/model groups. This event will also celebrate local and national military vehicles with a dedicated parking and display area.

The city’s biggest local cruise-in was renamed Caffeine and Octane Jacksonville after joining forces with the integrated brand behind North America’s largest monthly car show in Dunwoody, Ga., and the “Caffeine and Octane” television show on the NBC Sports Network. The event returns at the same times on Saturday Aug. 14 and Sept. 11, with more to come through the year.

Poll shows Fla. most EV-friendly

Florida ranks top in the nation in a newly-released US Electric Vehicle Accessibility Index, which evaluates how consumer-friendly each state is for purchasing an electric vehicle. Florida’s top marks are a result of the state permitting direct-to-consumer sales, which are prohibited in 17 states, says the ConsumerChoiceCenter.org index.

“Florida has prioritized consumer access for electric vehicles, and other states should follow Florida’s lead,” Consumer Choice Center North American Affairs Manager David Clement said. ” … In today’s age of limitless information at your fingertips, and healthy competition in the auto industry, these restrictions are far past their expiration date. Other states should do exactly what Florida did, and allow for direct-to-consumer sales.”

Clement, who authored the study, also said Florida should be commended for its technology-neutral approach to registration fees. Florida licenses vehicles based on their weight, and does not discriminate against EVs, or hybrid plug-ins. Unfortunately, consumers in 28 states face disproportionate licensing fees if they seek to register their EV, he said.

Originally published here.

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