Tonight I drove downtown to participate in a marketing focus group about HMOs.

The first question was about savings bonds that couldn't be used for anything except medical expenses. "Give the gift of health" to a loved one, they said. I was delighted that someone was able to name what troubled me about that: health isn't a gift, it's a right.

The next question was about a program that would let you buy vitamins at a discount from the HMO. So let's see: we get the same discount as most dot-com sites give, only you get to keep track of our buying habits, our clickstream, and so on? I asked, "If vitamin supplements are so useful, shouldn't the HMO be giving them to us for free? They'll save a lot of money on those scurvy epidemics we're always having."

Pretty soon after that, they paid me for my time. I guess they should have known better -- I said during the screener that I'd like to kill Bill Gates.

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