December 29, 2008

New Study Shows Prices Vary Widely for the Same Vaccine in U.S.

Americans pay more than people in any other country for medical care, and receive less of that care for their money, according to an empirical study published this month in the journal Pediatrics. Here are highlights of the results.

All things negotiable: The researchers found a wide variation not only in what pediatricians and family practitioners paid for vaccines, but also in the reimbursements they received from insurers and managed care organizations.

Doctors are losing money, but investors aren't. Dr. Gary Freed of the University of Michigan Health Systems reports that he undertook a study of physician costs associated with childhood immunization because he kept hearing complaints from physicians that they couldn't make ends meet and were losing money on immunizations.

What is your health worth? Some physicians are paying three times as much as others for the exact same vaccine. "By the same token, we found that some physicians were being reimbursed twice as much as other physicians for the same vaccine. So, some were paying too much and getting reimbursed too little," Freed said.

Some can no longer afford to vaccinate children. At least a fifth of family practitioners surveyed report they can no longer afford to vaccinate children, which can be a problem particularly in rural areas of the country.

December 18, 2008

Chinese Battery Company Mass-Produces Plug-In Electric Car

While Chevy advertises the Volt, an electric hybrid car that won't even hit the market until 2010, and Ford advertises that they are "researching" alternative fuel vehicles, Chinese battery manufacturer BYD is selling cars. That's right, Americans can read about plug-in electric vehicles that go faster than 25 mph, and people in China can walk into dealerships and buy them.

Want one?
They are only being sold in China this year, and will be exported to Scandinavia next year. After that, BYD might sell them to North America and/or Europe.

The price?
About $US 21,000 compared to the Volt's projected price of $40,000.

Can this car succeed on the mass market?
Billionaire Warren Buffett thinks so. Buffet has US$230 million in BYD.

Read about Hybrid Cars with Pothole Power!

December 15, 2008

Consumer Consequences: How Many Earths are Needed to Support Your Lifestyle?

Click the link to play the interactive game Consumer Consequences and find out if you are leading a sustainable life! Brought to you by public radio, the game is both informative and fun. Consumer Consequences will ask you a series of questions about your lifestyle. As you play, it will show you how many "Earths" of natural resources it would take to sustain all 6.6 billion humans… if everyone lived like you.

The game doesn't take long, and all the cool citizens of earth are playing it. Who says learning can't be fun? (Nobody still says that, right?)

December 5, 2008

Barnes & Noble’s Customer Service... Barnes & Not So Noble?

The letter below was sent to Barnes and Noble from an unhappy customer. The letter was CCed to EH as a letter to the editor. It is reprinted below:

I am tired of not being able to make a purchase at a Barnes and Noble store without receiving a sales pitch for a membership. The employee behind the register asks if I have a membership, then if I would like one, and then refuses to drop the subject. When I answer “no” to both questions, I am subjected to a reiteration of the benefits, often delivered in a tone and manner that seem to say “what’s wrong with you?” I have had to adamantly refuse the membership offer as many as four times during a single transaction. And don’t forget the little note on the receipt that says how much a member would have saved. Now, in addition to the membership pitch, I am being asked for my E-mail address so that BN can send me coupons that I truly do not care to receive. The cumulative result is that trying to buy a book at BN has become an irritating experience for those of us who don’t want to be members or hand over our e-mail addresses. Having worked in retail management in the past, I know that the experience can be irritating for the employee as well as the customer.