The $100K trigger finger

Most of us are familiar with the story of the Six Million Dollar Man, and most of us have eaten a Hundred Grand Bar (the candy bar formerly known as the Hundred Thousand Dollar Bar). But what about the Hundred Thousand Dollar Trigger Finger?

This story concerns an acquaintance of mine who is a sworn officer for a state law-enforcement agency. One weekend, while doing a little home improvement, he accidentally cut off the tip of his right index finger, just above the first knuckle. Since the guy is right-handed, his right index finger is his trigger finger—a fairly important digit for someone in law enforcement.

After the accident, he and the severed fingertip were rushed to the hospital. The doctors called in a hand specialist—there’s a specialist for every body part, apparently—who attempted to re-attach the finger. The hand specialist was unsuccessful, so he called in a plastic surgeon to sew up the shortened digit in a way that would minimize scarring. All in all, my acquaintance spent two nights in the hospital.

The total amount that the hospital billed his health plan? You guessed it—one hundred thousand dollars.

Think about it. A hundred grand for a stitched-up finger and two nights in the hospital. (As far as I know, there was no mini-bar or pay-per-view in my acquaintance’s hospital room.) And the doctors weren’t even able to re-attach the finger. How much heroic effort could they have made to ring up a hundred grand in charges?

Is it any wonder that health care is so expensive in this country?

This incident just shows that when discussing the ever-rising costs of our health care, we should look beyond the usual suspects—liability lawsuits and other boogeymen—and investigate another possibility: that of good, old-fashioned overcharging. Another term is price gauging—or, as Tony Soprano would call it, a shakedown.

As for my law-enforcement acquaintance, he learned to fire his weapon with his middle finger. How appropriate.


Last night, on “The Colbert Report,” author Rick Reilly was plugging his book Shanks for Nothing (a “golf novel,” apparently). Reilly being a sports writer, Colbert asked him to weigh in on the Barry Bonds controversy: Should Bonds’ imminent home-run record, for instance, be allowed to stand despite his use of performance-enhancing drugs?

Reilly replied that yes, they should be left in the books—but with a little syringe icon next to them.


Boy, those Republicans are smart, smart, smart. Unlike Democrats, who pay serious money for conventional political spots on TV, Republicans have an entire TV network that broadcasts their propaganda for free. Not only that, but this GOP propaganda channel even makes money for its owner, Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. It’s a true win-win situation.

What’s more, there’s a virtuous circle at work: The more effective the propaganda is, the more people vote Republican. The more people vote Republican, the more money Rupert makes through GOP tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals, relaxed rules on the concentration of media ownership, and other favorable legislation. That, in turn, means more money that ol’ Rupert can invest in Fox to produce more-effective propaganda.

In addition, News Corp. has bought the parent company of MySpace, where millions of teens post pictures of themselves, write messages to each other, and link to each other’s pages. Plenty of parents are worried about dirty old men pretending to be teens on MySpace. Now we have to worry about something just as insidious: Fox propaganda.