Monday, August 25, 2008

Who Else Is Responsible For High Healthcare Costs?

HealthWarehouse.com has always been about advocating change in the healthcare industry. Most Americans will agree that healthcare costs have been spiraling out of control and there are always the usual scapegoats: big pharma and big drug distributors.

We have found that the problem is as much an online problem as a traditional big pharma problem. Due to ignorance or fear, many large online companies who could help consumers save money refuse to do so and contribute to rising healthcare costs.

By sheer size, the biggest culprit is Google. Due it's large influence in search and on what people find on the Internet, Google's policies can effect prices in a big way. We were notified by Google in May we could no longer sell syringes using Google Checkout as it violated their policies. This is one of the reasons why Google Checkout is no longer an option when a syringe is added to our shopping cart.

As of today, August 25th, there are still more than 4,700 results for the word syringe using Google Checkout. When we asked Google why we must remove our listings when others are selling syringes, they simply responded that they are allowed to interpret their policies anyway they see fit. To be fair, they also said they would stop the others from selling, but it's been 3 months and we have seen no reduction in the number of merchants selling syringes on Google Product Search.

In the meantime, the biggest loser was you, the consumer. We sell arguably the lowest priced syringe in the USA however, due to either misinformed policies or simple ignorance, Google has prevented you from saving money. The biggest irony is that Google itself has launched Google Health in an effort to help reduce healthcare costs, meanwhile they have prevented legitimate companies from selling consumers legitimate products which could save them money.

To be fair, Google is not the only culprit. Recently we launched 100% FREE shipping on ALL orders regardless of size with no coupons. Again, a great way for consumers to save money.

I went ahead and posted the story on Digg.com in order to share the news with my friends. Almost within minutes, I was locked out of my Digg account. When I emailed Digg support to find out what the issue was, they responded:

"Your account was reported to us as being in violation of our Terms of Service (http://digg.com/tos) for submitting prohibited content (pharmacy/supplement ads) to Digg. Because we must be vigilant in protecting against activities that compromise the Digg community, this decision is final and irreversible."

Had Digg bothered to read the article, they would have seen this was a legitimate company press release. While we are a licensed pharmacy, the release says nothing about controlled substances, prescription products, or was even an offer to purchase them!

Legal or not, the mere mention of the word "pharmacy" brings up red flags and with good reason. Abuse is widespread and there are a large number of illegal pharmacies selling online. Companies such as Google and Digg have a right to protect consumers from illegal pharmacies, however, there must be a way for legitimate, 100% legal pharmacies to offer their products otherwise the trend of rising healthcare costs will continue unabated.

We are not asking Google, Digg, and others to begin allowing everyone in the world to advertise or post anything they please. However, there must be an avenue for honest, legal sellers to offer their goods to consumers. Until this happens, the true openness and efficiency of the Internet will never by realized in the healthcare industry and average consumers will continue to suffer under the crushing burden of ever rising healthcare costs.

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