Opinion » Shredder

Free market, baby!


Remember when those lunatics in spandex sped through town, cutting off access to your house and making that coffeehouse in Avila Beach so mad the owner pissed lattes for a week? I’m told it was a planned event, though why anyone would throw on a pair of tiny shorts and pedal around town with a bunch of other people wearing tiny shorts is beyond me. Maybe it’s a religious thing—like self-flagellation—or maybe they just want all of us pasty car-dwellers to shed a whiskey-flavored tear over the sad state of disrepair into which our unused limbs have fallen.

Being Shredder, however, I took full advantage of the situation with a lemonade booth about halfway along the route—when I knew those spandex-wearing fools would be good and thirsty. And desperate. Of course, an angry mob wound up overturning my booth when they found out that the cups of lemonade I was selling for $8.13 only cost me $1. They burned down my booth—I never knew lemonade could catch fire; maybe there was fracking nearby—and accused me of price-gouging and predatory business practices. Which baffled me, because I was kind of under the impression that price-gouging was the national sport. What’s the point of a free market system if you can’t get rich off another person’s desperation? In hindsight, I think they were just jealous of my brilliant business plan.

Which is why I’m wearing a Hello Kitty armband as a show of solidarity with Templeton’s Twin Cities Community Hospital. They too have been accused—by that do-goody California Nurses Association—of price-gouging. In fact, in a totally random turn of events, they’ve been accused of charging their patients $8.13 for every $1 of care they provide. Now, I know what you’re thinking, communist haters of the free market: If Shredder’s a jackass for leveraging people’s thirst to turn a quick buck, what do you call a business that turns a whopping 813 percent profit off sick people? I mean, you might want a nice, cold glass of lemonade on a hot day, but how much more do you want someone to set your broken arm or cure your cancer? From a business perspective, it’s downright brilliant. From a humanitarian perspective, it’s downright distasteful.

Of course, the health-care industry has a response to these accusations, and that response is: The cost reports are just a starting point for negotiating healthcare charges. Because when you’re sick and you get a hospital bill that rivals what you paid for your overpriced Central Coast home, you’re in the perfect position to negotiate your bill. And, in their defense, when the hospitals send you a bill, they add a line stating that this is what they’d like to see you pay, but if you can’t, it’s totally cool. Just send a check for whatever you think is fair. Yup. That’s the way the health-care system works.

Now, Twin Cities Community Hospital isn’t the only local health-care provider being bullied by the California Nurses Association. That group found Sierra Vista Regional Medical Care Center to have a charge-to-cost ratio of $6.61 for every $1, and French Hospital had $5.77 for every $1. For anyone wondering how they compare to other hospitals, the state average was $3.07 for public hospitals, $4.52 for nonprofits, and $5.42 at for-profit hospitals. It’s great to know that, in addition to complaining about the exorbitant cost of housing on the Central Coast, we can throw in some jabs about the cost of health care. If you’re smart like me, you can pay your cousin who dropped out of med school after a week and a half to treat you in his garage at half-cost.

Of course, the good news is that the state senate is trying to keep Californians healthy by taxing you into giving up your sugar-laden eating—and mostly drinking—habits. Apparently, the senate has identified sodas, and other sugary beverages, as the reason we’re not all shimmying into spandex and pedaling around the county. And the best way to dictate how and what we should eat, while maintaining the illusion of freedom, is to slap a tax on anything the state deems unhealthy for its childlike citizens. Senate Bill 622 would impose a penny tax for every ounce of soda.

While I’m not about to make the argument that Coca-Cola has done any favors for the rolls of fat that make my torso shimmy every time I waddle off the couch, I don’t necessarily like the idea of politicians who can actually afford this tax using legislation to control how I eat. I would love to stick Coca-Cola and Burger King and Taco Bell and Starbucks with the blame for my health, but the reality is that I already know a triple caramel frappucino is going to give me a case of diabetes so bad that I’ll one day go into a coma simply holding a box of Oreos. All reasonable people are already aware of this fact. And most reasonable adults don’t like being treated like children with a financial hand slap every time they reach for junk food.

Besides, fiscal bullying adds up, and I’m clearly going to have to start a special savings account if I ever plan on getting into a car accident or choking on a pretzel while living on the Central Coast. And with my dreams of lemonade stand riches behind me—it’s crazy that people won’t tolerate an $8.13 cup of lemonade, but they’ll go into foreclosure over a case of the flu—and the possibility that I’m going to be paying more every time I pop open a bottle of pop, I’m going to have to watch every penny, pound for pound. 

Shredder’s pro-nothing. Send anti-rants to shredder@newtimesslo.com.


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