The Economy Hub With Michael Hiltzik
How a hugely overpriced hepatitis drug helped drive up U.S. health spending

There's one especially eye-catching number in a new report by Medicare actuaries about U.S. healthcare spending: 12.6%.

That's the leap in prescription drug spending last year over the year before. How sharp an increase is it? It was five times as much as the increase for 2013 over 2012, which was a mere 2.5%. 

The actuaries have no doubt what's driving the increase. It's "a result of expensive new...

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Georgia claims that publishing its state laws for free online is 'terrorism'

Government officials have threatened "rogue archivist" Carl Malamud with legal action many times for his efforts to make public government documents widely available for free, but the state of Georgia has set a new standard for fighting this ridiculous battle: It's suing Malamud for infringing its copyright of state laws by -- horrors -- publishing them online.

The state's lawsuit, filed last week...

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Religious 'freedom': Judges bar pharmacies from withholding contraceptives

A federal appeals court has just struck back against the discreditable trend of healthcare professionals placing their personal beliefs ahead of their duties to patients. 

In a case involving a family-owned pharmacy in Washington state that objects to "morning-after" contraceptives, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a state rule forbidding drugstores to deny any...

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Consumer protection: Why do Republicans hate the CFPB so much?

The Dodd-Frank financial reform bill turned 5 years old this week, and conservative Republicans, who didn't like the measure in the first place, predictably have been withering in their scorn. Perhaps not coincidentally, so have big bankers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

They've all reserved some of their harshest words for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, that brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth...

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Social Security trustees: Program is healthier, Congress still must act

The Social Security trustees delivered a harsh blow Wednesday to those who claim the system is structurally unsound, requiring major cutbacks. In their annual report for 2015, they declared that the program's fiscal health has improved over the last year, for predictable reasons: The economy is improving, and workers' wages are rising. 

The trustees moved the projected exhaustion date for the combined...

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Atticus Finch and the problem of good-hearted racism

During the waning days of apartheid, I had dinner with a group of liberal South Africans.

And they were liberals in relative terms: Cape Town residents of Anglo descent, they had lived and done business in the closest thing to a multicultural community South Africa offered, geographically and socially remote from the Afrikaner traditions prevailing in Johannesburg and Pretoria, some 900 miles to the...

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