Five at 8 – 10/21/09: The vaccination debate

1) You don’t want your kid vaccinated? That decision affects more than you and your kid, a writer at notes:

Ordinarily I wouldn’t question others’ parenting choices. But the problem is literally one of live or don’t live. While that parent chose not to vaccinate her child for what she likely considers well-founded reasons, she is putting other children at risk. In this instance, the child at risk was my son. He has leukemia.

Update 11:03 a.m. — MPR’s Nate Minor reminds me of a This American Life segment called “Ruining it for the rest of us.”

Measles cases are higher in the U.S. than they’ve been in a decade, mostly because more and more nervous parents are refusing to vaccinate their kids. Contributing Editor Susan Burton tells the story of what happened recently in San Diego, when an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy returned home from a trip to Switzerland, bringing with him the measles. By the end of the ordeal, 11 other children caught the disease, and more than 60 kids had to be quarantined.

2) I saw a press release yesterday that demanded the same health insurance premiums for women as those for men. It was the latest evidence that people really don’t understand how insurance works. Reporter Sarah Varney looked into this, and explains how age and gender affects rates:

For companies with more than 1,000 workers, insurers are more likely to base their rates on historical claims data. But for smaller companies, health plans rely more on age and gender.

“In the private market, group insurance is really social insurance,” Kaplan says. “In a typical employer group, roughly half the employees will have no claims in a given year, and they are paying a premium. And there’s some people in that workforce who are going to have $100,000 in claims.”

As a younger, healthier person, I may subsidize the older workers at my company who need more medical care. But I also get something out of it — my co-workers who don’t have kids help subsidize coverage for my family. And that’s the point of group health insurance: We all take our chances together.

3) How far are you willing to go to save your home? I’m not talking about foreclosure, I’m talking about risking you or your families life, or crossing a dictator. The BBC profiles a documentary about Ben Freeth, the Briton “along with his Zimbabwean family has for the past few years been in a tug of war for land with President Robert Mugabe, the country’s strong and ruthless leader.”

4) News you can use. Or not. I stumbled across Air Now today, a Web site that provides air pollution information in real time. As it so happens, today in central and southeast Minnesota, we’re full of bad air. Try the animation. Even more interesting: The Air Compare feature that lets you compare health concerns of three states. But there’s no explanation for why Olmsted County had the most “unhealthy days” for heart disease in the state in 2008.

5) Oh, Public Radio, you’ve changed so over the years. Why, there was a time that the mere mention of Dolly Parton would set y’all to giggling.


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Health care reform update.

Second hour: Why do we need pundits, and what makes a good one?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, discusses the history and future of investigative journalism.

Second hour: Historian Taylor Branch speaks at the Commonwealth Club of California about former president Bill Clinton. Branch is the author of “The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President.”

Talk of the Nation (1 – 3 p.m.) – First hour: Helen Thomas.

Second hour: Abigail Pogrebin, author of “One and The Same,” about being an identical twin.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The stimulus package’s nine-month COBRA subsidy (which pays 65 percent of the premium) is going to start running out for some laid-off workers. How successful has it been and should Congress keep it going beyond its expiration date? MPR’s Annie Baxter has the story this evening.

NPR will have details on a study coming out this afternoon that reveals how Massachusetts doctors think that state’s universal health care program is working… or not.