For several years, health advocates have tried to assemble a treaty to fund research and development on neglected diseases that predominate in poor countries. This week, US and EU negotiators gutted that goal.
The New York Times this week profiled “microinsurance”– local health insurance schemes for the poor and sick–which the Times characterized as a revolutionary new safety net system for the world’s poor. The idea behind microinsurance is simple: big insurance companies sometimes don’t give coverage for the poor and sick, so just like microlending gave loans to poor people opening businesses, microinsurance is a way to pool money among the poor in order to cover the catastrophic expenditures associated with illness.
We asked our colleagues of epidemiologists and public health workers and humanitarian relief organization directors to find out what they thought about these schemes…and, surprisingly, we couldn’t find a single one who knew of a good example of a microinsurance program that actually worked. In fact, they were almost universally critical of the idea. What gives?
With the recent attention garnered by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, even the slow world of epidemiology has started to pay attention to the idea that the behavior of banks may be a significant factor in human health. Banks have critically affected the availability and pricing of food, and precipitated the mortgage-backed security crisis and subsequent economic recession that has resulted in significant joblessness and associated loss of health insurance. One idea that’s caught on internationally is the idea of discouraging risky transactions made by the banks–the kind of transactions that precipitated the global economic recession–and also raise money for “the 99%” who have been harmed by the actions of bankers. In this week’s post, we analyze the workings of such a “Robin Hood Tax“, and analyze what implications such a tax might have for public health.