Medicare Spending, Rising Used Car Prices and More

Jeff Brown, MD

Used car prices have risen far faster than new car prices since the recession, the direct costs of obesity in the U.S., slow adoption in the medical community and other interesting financial news you can use.

Too interesting to simply pass over, but not enough information to dedicate an entire column

— here's some more interesting financial news you can use.

— 60% of start ups survive to age three (40% fail) while only 35% make to age 10, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But of the 6,613 companies funded by venture capitalists (VC) between 2006 and 2011, 84% are still operating, closely held, while 11% were acquired or went through an IPO and only 4% went out of business. Is it because VCs only fund the best ideas or perhaps because they have the expertise and unlimited resources to make sure that their protégés survive?

— In the last four years, used cars' prices have risen an average of 33% (to $8,495) while new cars are only up 9% (to $30,545). And in 2011 the average car in the U.S. was 10.8 years old. Rising used car prices and the increased ages of cars are obvious results of the recession and the reason manufacturers are predicting a good year as pent up demand and a strengthening economy are expected to motivate people to put aside their old beaters for something newer, shinier and more high tech. Oh, and more fuel efficient, too.

— We are all painfully aware that obesity in the U.S. is up to 25% of the population and rising and that the indirect costs of the resultant increase in morbidity and mortality are considerable. But there are sizable (!) direct costs as well, such as bigger hospital beds and MRI machines. Over the last 15 years the average MRI machine has increased from a diameter of 24 inches, handling up to 300 pounds, to the latest models which are 32 inches wide and will take a whopping 660 pounds. And we also knows who pays for these increased tesla-generating bills (time out for a look in the mirror).

— For acquiring major gifts to non-profits, every 10 cents spent on fundraising returns an average of $1. For direct mail to get that $1 it costs 20 cents and for special events, every $1 costs 50 cents to find.

— In 2011, the number one federal district for corruption convictions in the U.S. was Puerto Rico at 130. For the previous nine years it had been second to New Jersey.

— "...the burden of supporting old people is too heavy, and statesmen are perturbed by the enormous expense which will be entailed by State support of the aged" — Elie Metchnikoff, Paris, France in 1907. That's 1907!

— On that subject, we are reminded that 25% of all Medicare spending went for people in the last year of life last year, even though they were only 5% of the population, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Spending.

— Did you realize that all but five states no longer require the teaching of cursive writing? Where will all the future doctors come from? (rim shot)

— 18% of U.S. employees are grumblers, according to a Gallup Poll. The problem is that "...negativity can spread like a cancer, (proven) to lead to lower productivity, increased quality defects and increased absenteeism," per Jim Harter, their workplace management guy. As I have written before, part of the problem is "Hire in haste and repent at leisure."

— Of the top 50 philanthropists in the U.S. in 2011, only four came from the tech world, and only two were in the top 20 (Paul Allen of Microsoft and Pierre Omidyar of eBay).

"That hesitance to give money away may be the result of the speed with which these technologists earned their wealth. It may still feel a little too tenuous." says E. Chris Wilder of The Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif.

Did I ever tell you that had I not become a doc and a writer, my fall-back career choice was to become a philanthropist?

— On the other hand, a survey showed that one in three baby boomers would rather leave their money to charity than to their children. Sure, why deprive them of the fun we are having/had of earning our way…

— A recent study showed that it took about 15 years for the practice of prescribing beta blockers to post-myocardial infarction patients to get to even half of the American population. The postulated reason for why it took so long was simply that it was a typical course of physicians’ adaptation of new, important medical advances. Quite an indictment that; maybe the internet will help in the future.

— I'll leave you with Socrates; "Nature gave us one tongue and two ears."