Those in the spinal cord injury world may already know what I'm talking about, but for those of you that don't I'm providing a few links: Levo Standing Wheelchair, Hero Standing Wheelchair, and if you google 'standing wheelchair' you'll see others.
"Well, of course it's expensive. It's high tech," I said, "and it makes me stand up." And it is expensive, about 450,000YEN (about 4,500USD) and it does make me stand up, but I wasn't really convinced about my own statement. So since I have a lot of time, I did a little rethinking about this 'high tech' wheelchair.
You've all seen a wheelchair, so let's be realistic; depending on the all the bells and whistles the frame is no more high tech than a bicycle, and you wouldn't pay $4500 for a bicycle. The 'high tech' standing mechanism is a hydraulic lift (which have been around for a few hundred years).
Of course we all know the basic economics answer to this question. One unit is expensive because there is no volume of sales. Answer number one; correct!
Answer number two is more complex. We all know about another supposed theory of prices, the "what-the-market-can-bare" theory, but is $4500 really "what-the-market-can-bare"? In the case of wheelchairs it seems to be "what-the-insurance-providers-will-tolerate". In many cases, private or public insurance companies do help pay the massively high costs for these low-tech machines, so the inflated cost ends up subsidized by the premiums of the non-wheelchair using community.
In cases where a public or private insurance will not help pay the costs of the chair, the "what-the-market-can-bare" price system completely collapses because with a 63% unemployment rate (USA) the non-insured cannot afford the price, making the market smaller and again pushing up the price.
But this blog is about stem cells not wheelchairs. But before I get criticized for changing the focus of this blog, I'd like to first discuss the ACME Cooking Company of France for a really quick economics lesson.
John Q asked ACME to come up with a new gastronomical delicacy. He was so desperate to satisfy his palette that he agreed to not only pay for the costs of any ingredients that the company would need to create the new dish (whether used or not in the final creation) but to pay for the education of all ACME's chefs and other employees. Most importantly, it was John Q gave money to the company so that they could hire and pay for some big name (and smaller name) chefs.
After many years the ACME company had finished the creation and John Q was ready to eat. When he had heard that the new dish was in it's completion stage he purposely began to starve himself so he could truly enjoy this delicacy. Finally, he seated himself at a fine table decked out on his Sunday best. The president of the ACME company would serve the dinner himself on the fanciest china with diamond studded silverware. As the president approached carrying a silver-lidded tray John Q could hardly contain himself.
What came next truly stopped his heart. As the president uncovered the tray and the contents were unveiled to him he saw that the only thing that was being presented was an enormous bill. He knew that he would have to pay something, but having funded the whole project, he felt that he wouldn't have to pay THIS much. He couldn't afford this and when he spoke up to ask about the exorbitant price he was shocked what he heard.
The ACME president informed John that since it was he himself who took the risk to create this food extravaganza the price was more than fair.
John retorted, "I paid for this already. It was me who kept you all working and paid in the years before you invented anything." The ACME president now stunned John. He simply left. John was left with an empty stomach and emptier pockets.
Now a really quick poll. How many think that John got ripped off?
Maybe there is no need to go on to stem cell research in today's blog. Don't want to hit anyone over the head.