While the title of this paper may sound strange, we will show how we can make major progress on both subjects by treating them as one problem. Medical science has established a cause-effect relationship between certain pollutants and particular diseases. By linking individual polluters to specific populations suffering from diseases caused by their pollution, we can bring market forces to bear to solve the problem.
Current technology such as MapPerfectTM software makes it possible to view the items in a database using a map as the user interface. Using a tool such as this, we could take a large database of people with health problems, for instance an HMO or health insurance database, and plot the locations of everyone with a given disease or group of diseases. We would choose the disease(s) based on known association with pollutants. By observing the resulting map, we could discover either a random distribution of the patients, or geographic clusters. Should we discover a cluster, we could then investigate and determine if a polluter or group of polluters has made a substantial contribution to the problem.
When we actually find a polluter who has caused a serious medical problem, the insurance company or HMO could, using precedent from the tobacco cases, sue for reimbursement of costs of treatment. Winning such a suit would accomplish three objectives:
- By placing the cost on the responsible party, it helps the insurance company or HMO lower its prices for its customers.
- It takes the profit out of pollution that causes disease.
- This in turn helps to clean up the environment, thus preventing disease, thus helping to keep health care costs down.
Of course, the larger the database the greater the possibility of locating problem polluters. If government were to have any role (other than judicial) in this process, it might be to have an agency such as the Center for Disease Control to convene a conference where the insurance companies and HMO's could all agree to make their data available for a pooled database for such studies. Of course a good law firm could, based on one or two wins, solicit other HMO's and insurance companies and eventually accomplish much the same thing without any government assistance.