The sickening state of the health care industry


I don't think this is what Ben Franklin had in mind when he established the American insurance system: 47 million of us in this country are uninsured, and those of us who live in California narrowly escaped criminalization for not being able to afford an HMO, PPO or any other combination of initials that will help pay our medical expenses. Meanwhile, the Democratic presidential hopefuls are arguing over the definition of universal health care. It makes me sick to think about it.

Meanwhile in Minneapolis, Tony Miller has launched Carol, a company that offers price comparisons for various medical procedures for both insured and uninsured Twin Cities residents. Miller wants to take his idea into a second U.S. market this year; with any luck at all, Carol will spread through the country faster than a cold at a daycare center.

(Memo to the wag who criticized Carol because it would best serve the uninsured: 47 million people is not "a small group of customers.")

Since even those who can afford the most comprehensive medical insurance can be slammed with high deductibles and co-payments, medical professionals are also developing free-market options in the form of no-interest loans for optional procedures like laser eye surgery. And some insurance providers offer health savings accounts to their policy-holders with high deductibles, although the average balance of these accounts isn't even enough to cover the cost of an ambulance ride.

Speaking of which, I'm counting on good luck and (ahem) clean living to keep me healthy and whole, since it looks like the health care debate will rage on no matter who's elected in November and the insurance industry can't -- or won't --heal itself. Salud!