Aside from the fact that I am a big baseball fan, my wife loveseBay, and consumer-driven health care happens to be my field ofemployment, I would say - nothing! At least that is what I wouldhave said yesterday.

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I am a Yankees fan. I know very little about eBay. And I work inthe health insurance arena. In other words, I am not very popularat cocktail parties. What I did not realize, however, untillistening to a presentation today, is that these three seeminglyindependent subjects can provide very interesting commentary on thestate of consumerism in our industry.

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Many baseball fans may remember a pitcher by the name of TommyJohn who played for both the Dodgers and the Yankees during his26-year career in the majors. Even if you didn't know that TommyJohn was a pitcher, you may be familiar with a fairly common typeof elbow surgery that bears his name. It all started in the middleof the 1974 season, when Tommy permanently damaged the ligaments inhis pitching arm. But instead of being forced into earlyretirement, Tommy underwent a revolutionary surgery that succeededin repairing his ligaments, thereby granting him a full recoveryand allowing him to pitch for another fourteen years and winanother 164 games. The surgery and his recovery were considered somiraculous that the operation was named after him and has sincebeen referred to as the "Tommy John" surgery.

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Why is this relevant?

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As you might imagine, you can go on eBay today and buy a TommyJohn baseball card. There are several in mint condition beingoffered right now by several different sellers. Those of you (likemy wife) who are familiar with eBay probably know that buyers haveat their disposal a vast amount of information about each seller tohelp them decide with whom they want to transact. Each seller israted based upon past performance, each seller receives feedbackfrom buyers which is then published for all users to see, eachseller provides different price points for the items that theyoffer (such as a mint condition Tommy John baseball card), and mostsellers detail whether they accept PayPal or credit cards.

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The point is that you can find out more about a person selling aTommy John baseball card on eBay than you can find out about aprovider who performs Tommy John surgeries at a hospital. If ourclients are going to become true health care "consumers," we needto find ways to equip them with the hands-on tools that they needto make the best and most informed decisions. And who knows? Tenyears from now when the Yankees win their 30th World Championship(OK, I can only hope) you may be able to review your doctor's trackrecord online and then bid for the best priced procedure oneBay!

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