Competition among Medicare health plans not a cure-all

Competition among private-sector Medicare health plans may be a useful tool to reconfigure care delivery but is unlikely to generate the savings necessary to help the program withstand the retirement of the baby-boom generation, according to a Health Affairs Web-exclusive article posted today. Marsha Gold, a senior fellow with Mathematica Policy Research Inc., in Washington, D.C., makes this conclusion in an article that reviews Medicare+Choice’s performance under the payment and regulatory constraints of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, as well as the lessons it has for the current debate on whether and how to expand Medicare benefits and modernize the Medicare program.

Toy choice among boys, girls a matter of monkey business

Sure Santa Claus asks boys and girls what toys they want, but why they want them is a better question. The answer may have to do with a biological pre-wiring that influences boys’ and girls’ preferences based on the early roles of males and females. It’s commonly believed that boys and girls learn what types of toys they should like based solely on society’s expectations, but psychologist Gerianne Alexander’s work with vervet monkeys is challenging that notion. Alexander examined the monkeys as they interacted with toys. She and her collaborator, Melissa Hines of the University of London, found that the monkeys’ toy preferences were consistent along gender lines with those of human children. Though the monkeys had no concept of a “boy” toy and a “girl” toy, they still showed the same gender preferences in playing with the toys, Alexander says. That is, compared to female monkeys, male monkeys spent more time with “boy” toys, and the female monkeys, compared to their male counterparts, spent more time with “girl” toys.