Editor's note: Wendell Potter's commentaries are on hiatus. To read more from Wendell, go to his archive.
If you’d like to meet someone who is truly “part of the solution,” someone who understands the problems of American health care in a way that few politicians do—and someone who is putting her money where her mouth is to get us healthier—meet Esther Dyson.
Dyson is a former journalist and angel investor whom Forbes magazine named one of the most powerful women in American business. Thirty-five years ago, Dyson founded EDventure Holdings, a pioneering information technology and new media company. In 1998, she became the first chair of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit that was created to manage the global domain-name system.
She has a keen sense of what stands a good chance of being the next big thing, having been an early investor in a Who’s Who of Internet-based companies. Her investment portfolio includes names like Facebook, LinkedIn and Evernote.
Now Dyson has set her sights on health care, and believes she’s found a way to reduce the absurd amount of money Americans spend, not with more legislation but by improving our health, one community at a time.
Dyson’s newest venture is HICCup, a nonprofit with the ambitious goal of encouraging a “rethinking of how we produce health.” HICCup’s biggest project is “The Way to Wellville,” a five-year effort to do just that—“produce health”—in five small cities across the United States.
Dyson admits to a mix of reasons for her efforts. Yes, she does care that so many of us are one cheese steak away from a heart attack, but she told me recently that her main motivation is something that drives her nuts.
“The reason I’m doing this is not really because I’m such a nice person. Yes, I do want to help the people in those (five) communities, but honestly, it was born of a hatred of stupidity and waste,” she said. “It’s crazy that people lose their health and then have to pay so much in agony and pain and disrupted lives, not to mention money, to recover it—if they ever do.”
She went on: “I was a tech person and I love technology and business models and economics and making things more efficient. At one point not long ago I discovered health care and I was like, ‘Wow, this is so messed up. Nothing makes sense. The economics aren’t aligned. Everything we know that we should do, we’re not doing. What’s wrong with us?’ ”