Do your doctor and insurer want you to be confused?

Today, the illegal weed market is thriving and straw thieves are conniving, but first…
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The blood test price gap

The price of a routine blood test varies by a factor of 40 — in a single city — due to opaque healthcare pricing, The New York Times reports.

Why do blood tests — some of the most routine procedures in modern medicine — range from $11 to $952?

Pricing in the healthcare industry is a bloody mess

In the US, doctors and insurers fix their prices privately, which means most patients don’t know prices until they’re billed by an insurer.  

Prices remain secret because big insurance companies fight fiercely to pay low prices and don’t want their competitors to know what they’ve negotiated — leaving patients out of the pricing process.

Prices vary between cities and between providers

The median price for a blood test in Baltimore is $30; in Miami, it’s $400. 

Prices for many things differ between cities based on cost of living, but medical prices vary even more dramatically. A C-section costs 3x more in San Francisco than in St. Louis, while a hotel room is just twice the price.

But because some large providers bargain for better deals, prices also vary widely within cities. In Miami, a simple blood test can range from $149 to $725.

Will we ever shop for surgeries like we shop for groceries?

For now, the relationship between health providers and health insurance companies ensures that prices will stay secret.

But consumer advocacy groups like Costs of Care and Clear Health Costs are fighting to make prices less secretive.

The government has also attempted (but failed) to improve the system: The Obama White House attempted to build a price guide. President Trump also ordered hospitals to post prices, but, as the Times wrote, “It may take a brain surgeon to decipher them.”

Costs an arm and a leg
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Canada’s black market for weed continues to dominate despite legalization

Canada legalized weeeed back in October 2018, but over 6 months after legal weed’s leap forward, the black market still gets most smokers high.

According to the Toronto Star, 79% of cannabis sales across Canada during Q4 of last year were made on the black market. It’s about a 12% dip from the previous quarter, sure, but legal pot is still miles away from outselling its counterpart.

‘The price is wrong b*tch’ — Happy Gilmore

According to a survey on Canuck-abis prices, the average cost of legal ganj is more than 50% higher than what it is on the BM. That’d be enough to make even Willie Nelson wanna kick it old-school — the illegal way.

Still, the larger issue is Canada’s distribution model: There’s already enough land for licensed cultivators to grow 2.2m pounds of weed a year, so national demand is more than in check — yet production still far exceeds reported sales.

‘The issue is the operation of the supply chain…’

–Tammy Jarbeau, a spokeswoman for Health Canada, told Quartz

For context, in the first year of legalization in both Colorado and Washington state, the states nabbed a much larger share of the total market. Why? Because they invited black market cultivators into the legal fold with open arms.

In many parts of Canada, only government-run shops are allowed to sell. In the other provinces, it costs thousands of dollars in licensing and regulatory fees to set up shop.

Prohibition doesn’t sell, Canada. Time to cut the bad boys in!

» Been slingin’ since before you were born

After a flood of copycatters, this entrepreneur says: “That’s the FinalStraw”

Emma Cohen’s idea was a hit from the beginning: Her environmentally friendly, reusable plastic straw raised $1.8m on Kickstarter and racked up 86k pre-orders.

But after a successful “Shark Tank” appearance and $5m in revenue during its first year, the wildly successful young company ran into a problem: fake straws.

A problem that really sucks

Despite patenting its technology, FinalStraw has had trouble reining in fake straws, CNBC reports.

Although authentic FinalStraws cost $25, impostor FinalStraws are available online for as little $1, cutting into FinalStraw’s business. Some of them even used photos of Cohen’s dog.

Cohen has spent millions fighting fake straws: Today, 3 of her 16 contractors are dedicated to fighting straw-fraud (she also retains 2 lawyers to help root out straw-frauds).

The copycat economy

FinalStraw isn’t the only business to have this problem: Many intellectual property thieves routinely steal promising projects straight from KickStarter and use influencers to build fake brands practically overnight.

The problem can be particularly hard to police in China, where companies like FinalStraw often need to file separate patents to secure any kind of copyright protection.

» Straw thieves suck

Big Sleep is on track to hit $101.9B by 2023 because you’re all a bunch of insomniacs

Hi there. It’s Wes Schlag, and if narcolepsy is a spectrum, I am on it. In other words, I sleep like a baby. The moment my head hits the pillow, nighty niiiiiight, world.

I don’t mean to brag (JK, yeah I do), but over the years I realized this is a dang superpower because — NO ONE CAN SLEEP! And it’s resulting in an estimated $63B of lost work performance each year.

The silver lining? Sleepy heads are awake during a booming renaissance of sleep aids. But it’ll cost ya.

Big sleep is big biz

Sleep aids were a $69.5B business in 2017, and analysts say the industry’s on pace to hit $101.9B by 2023. But it’s not all melatonin gummies and Ambien out there. 

Over the last 3 years, an explosion of weighted blankets, temperature-regulating duvets, and pillows with light-blocking hoods have hit the scene to help people go full R.E.M. 

Whatever helps you sleep at night… if you have the cash

On average, weighted blankets exist in the $250 range, proving that when it comes to sawing logs, people are counting dollars instead of sheep.

But many sleep aids are financially out of reach in less-affluent areas — areas that the CDC found to be at higher risk of sleep deprivation. Everyone knows financial woes cause anxiety, and anxiety is the death of good sleep.

In other words, sleep is now a luxury item. The real superpower would be to help those less fortunate afford to catch some zzzz’s.

» How do you sleep at night??

Would you buy a house that is rumored to be haunted?

Let’s say you find a killer deal on a house in a nice neighborhood. It’s got the white picket fence, the majestic yard, and all the pretty little trappings of the suburban dream. You’re in love.

But it comes with a catch: Someone died there years ago — and it’s rumored to be haunted. Would you take the plunge?

We’re exploring the niche market of “haunted” real estate and would love to hear your thoughts in this 5-question survey.

It takes ~30 seconds to fill out (and we promise it’s phantasm-free).

– Zack, Sunday editor


Influencer (in-floo-en-suhhr), n. 

1. A marketing channel you want to try but have no idea where to start

2.  Our writer Wes Schlag when “Tickle Cash” finally takes off

3. A person with a large online following who can make others want to use your product.

Yep, the term “influencer” has many ideas and definitions tied to it. And when you tack on “marketing,” it can get even more confusing — but now there’s a platform that can help you perfect your influencer marketing efforts: AspireIQ

Your guiding light in the murky waters of influence

AspireIQ holds your hand through the entire Insta-fluence process. 

Their AI-powered recommendation engine and streamlined communication tools make finding influencers to work with easier than spotting a dog at The Hustle’s HQ.

And once you’ve got your talent, AspireIQ kicks in to deliver results. 

They provide 360-degree dashboards to help you measure, track, and record all results, so you can see who is (or isn’t) working. 

Think of AspireIQ as every tool you need to nail down the kind of influencer marketing plan that turns regular businesses into the kind of unicorns we write about. 

Friend-request a demo →   How did you like today’s stories?
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In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

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