Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Can Market Players Wal-Mart and CVS Solve our Health Care Crisis?

I've always watched the health care problem from afar. As a young and carefree adult, I didn't have insurance except when my then-current employer paid for it. Not being one to buck the odds, I lived like there was no tomorrow and no such thing as bad health luck. After all, the chances of falling ill between age 0 and 55 are really small, and I'm no gambler.

But as I've gotten older, and as I've acquired a few things that I'd rather keep than sell to pay off some inevitable medical bills, I've gotten myself into a Health Savings Account with the required high-deductible ($10,000 for a couple) insurance policy. It costs us a fortune, and it pays for nothing except for catastrophes and about $200 towards an annual check-up.

I still toy with the idea of dropping it. I convince myself that I could stay at least a week in a good hospital for what we will pay over the next five years; and at my age chances are I'll drop dead of a heart attack rather than get a long illness. But then I get scared and change my mind.

This year for the first time, in one of my more cautious moods, I went in for my check-up, fully realizing that the $200 insurance advance would not cover all of the charges. But little did I realize that not only would I receive an invoice from my doctor for well over $250, but I would also receive additional ones from the nurse who pricked my arm, the little lady that stuck the EKG wires to me, the laboratory that analyzed the blood and urine sample, the outside physicians who interpreted the test results, an X-ray technician, and the medical center that provided the X-ray equipment -- well over $500 for a simple annual physical -- and I didn't even get the mammogram, the dietitian's advice, the eye exam, the bone density exam, the colon exam, and the Pap smear, all recommended by my doctor to a greater or lesser degree.

[Thanks to oucom.ohiou.edu for the photo. Let's see, 1, 2, ....8, that makes $5 each.]

What would all that have brought the total to? Surely well over $1,400, for a simple annual exam that was supposedly covered by my insurance.

"Good grief," I said to myself. "No wonder people want a single-payor system."


"OH NO. What am I saying?"

Please, please, people, don't give in to this temptation. There IS a solution to this quandary other than imitating Canada, from whence people come down into the US in droves to receive a minimum of proper care.

Even my patience was coming to its limits, until today, when I read the best news I've seen in a long time:

"Wal-Mart to Open 400 In-Store Clinics"

Duh! Why didn't we think of this before?

Well, obviously because it takes the movers and shakers of the marketplace to come up with this stuff, people like the gazillionaire Waltons, or whomever they've delegated to find new ways of making money. That is exactly why they make the big bucks, and they're the only ones who could pull this off.

So now I'm optimistic. I say it's a New Day, because the day Wal-Mart decides to get into the health care business is the day we anti-universal-health-care-ists have been waiting for, AT LONG LAST.

(Check out my Wal-Mart cartoon.)

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