Friday, January 01, 2010

CBO Analyzes Tort Reform in Health Care

The Congressional Budget issued a Dec 29 letter to U.S. Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) in response to questions about factors that affect premiums for medical malpractice insurance, the effects of tort reform on patients’ health, how recent empirical studies affected CBO’s analysis, and why CBO’s latest estimates of the budgetary effects of tort reform are larger than the agency’s previous estimates.

The 8-page letter, available here, reads in part:

CBO currently estimates that the nation’s direct costs for medical malpractice—which consist of malpractice insurance premiums and settlements, awards, and legal and administrative costs not covered by insurance—would be reduced by about 10 percent (relative to the amounts under current law) if the common package of tort reforms was implemented nationwide. CBO’s previous estimate was that tort reform would lower malpractice costs nationwide by about 6 percent.

See also a 10/9/09 CBO letter to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on the same topic of tort reform and medical malpractice.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Don’t Trust that Google Ranking: The New Personalized Search Blindfold

When marketing your business online, don’t be fooled by Google’s personalized search. With Google’s recent announcement that personalized search will be in play even when you’re not signed into Google, it gets harder to track your overall SEO efforts. (This column courtesy of guest writer Kevin Kaiser; see below.)

Google decided they would automatically enroll everyone (even without being signed into a Google account) into personalized search and make you opt out if you don’t want it. It works by using a cookie that stores the last 180 days of search queries and web history to give you the most personalized search.

The best way to illustrate this is through an example. I am writing this as a guest columnist based in Missouri (see below). When I do a search for “South Florida bankruptcy lawyer” while outside the state of Florida, I get the following results: #1 spot “;” #2 spot “;” and #3 spot “”

Now I don’t ever search for bankruptcy lawyers in South Florida, so I would consider this a fairly “normal” search for that query. What I mean by “normal” is that I’ve cleared all my history and cookies and performed only this search, so Google has no information on my search history or web history. “Normal” in the sense that it’s universal for everyone is dead.

If you’re in South Florida you may get something completely different than me. And if you’re a South Florida bankruptcy lawyer and do a search for ‘South Florida bankruptcy lawyer’, you see yourself #3, but you visit your site all the time, always click on it, and that’s why it’s so high for all your related search queries you’re tracking. For me, you may show up at #22.

To help see what you will look like to most users on their first query in a specific niche, you will want to disable Google’s ability to track your web history. To do this, perform a query in Google. Then, on the results page click “Web History” located in the top right corner. On the next page, click on the link that says “Disable customizations based on search activity”. This will make it so that the browser you’re using won’t let Google track your search history. You’ll want to make sure that you’re not signed into Google as well.

SEO, rank is now becoming a bit of a ‘myth’. It was easy to be able to do a simple query and see where your site ranked for the majority of searchers, but now it’s not the case anymore. You have to watch your analytics/traffic to make informed decisions about how your marketing campaign is going. If you see a big drop in organic traffic, yet your site hasn’t dropped rank for many keywords or maybe even went higher in rank, it’s obviously not the same case for the rest of searchers.

So is SEO dead? While the universal personal results make it hard to track, SEO is still important to get that initial exposure to potential clients. Having keyword-rich titles and meta tags, as well as great content and lots of links, you have a good chance of being in the first couple results. And that matters more than ever now as when a user visits your site and not many others in your niche, there is a much higher chance Google will try to send them to your site again for a similar query.

This guest post was written by Kevin Kaiser of, specializing in educating consumers about surety bonds.