A matter of perspective

John Taylor: November 13, 20070 Comments

The story begins like so much nonsense. "Just in time for the holidays, you'll be able to buy Dad a gift card that pays for his semiannual trip to the urologist."

That's how a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter described a new health care gift card pushed by Highmark Inc., an insurer. You pay $4.95 for the card and can plop as much as $5,000 on it for doctor visits and prescriptions -- and give to family and friends who are not inclined to pay for needed care.

Of course it's a gimmick. But does it make more sense than buying a bag of Cheeto's and a Big Gulp and calling it breakfast?

Another case in point with respect to perspective comes from Texas. There, trauma hospitals were told by state lawmakers that they would get half the fines paid by red-light runners -- folks who often propagate trauma cases. Except that the state, in what the Dallas Morning News referred to as a "legislative version of bait-and-switch," never formally appropriated the money for the trauma centers -- and instead the state will keep the money to offset unbudgeted Medicaid costs.

Then there's California which, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, is fifth lowest state in the union in terms of employer-sponsored health coverage. And, to boot, the United Health Foundation says California has slipped from 23rd to 25th among the 50 states based on 20 measures of wellness -- obesity rates are rising as are "poor mental and physical health days per month." (Overall, Vermont ranks best.)

The final words go to Jason Miller, writing in the Oct. 23rd issue of Modern Healthcare magazine. He tries to frame the cost of health care by how much Oprah earns ($260 million) and what a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti costs ($260,000).

"Viewed as a necessity, however, it is far too easy to complain about our financial contributions to health care while at the same time paying grossly inflated prices for movie passes and tickets to events that have made ballplayers and actors two of the highest paid professions in the world."

Sounds like a shot at A-Rod, but point taken, Jason. Did I mention he works for Highmark, maker of the health care gift card?