Thursday, January 21, 2010

Do We All Drill Our Own Well?

Politicians in this country have been debating whether health care is a right. I think it is.

Why do I think so? A person can go shopping for the best deal on a car, housing, clothes, food and entertainment. But if you are ill or injured, you are in no position to go shopping for the best deal on surgery or critical care. So it cannot possibly considered just another commodity purchase.

I am greatly disappointed in the current proposed health care legislation and I do not support it. Here is why.

Not so long ago, I did not have health insurance. Why? I have a pre-existing condition, so the insurance companies did not want to sell me a policy. So I got my health care by negotiating cash payments with my doctors and ordering my prescriptions from Canada in order to buy my meds at significantly reduced prices.

One of the reasons I got my meds from Canada was because I did compare prices for my maintenance meds at drug stores, grocery stores and even the big discount stores here. One of the drugs my doctor prescribed was one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in this country. At the time, there was no generic version available, and the price was almost identical no matter what store I called. The Big Pharma Company insists that it has to cost this much because it costs so much to produce.

That is a lie. Look it up and see how their marketing costs compare with their research costs. The Canadian pharmacies sell meds back to me and other Americans for 40% less than any American store. (It has been a few years now, so I do not have the exact numbers at hand, but I will use this percentage for the sake of example. In any case it is significant.) There was a time when Big Pharma was upset with the Canadian pharmacies for selling the meds to Americans for these greatly reduced prices, and so they withheld shipments to Canadian pharmacies. To get around that, the Canadians had pharmacies in Australia and New Zealand send me my meds, still at that 40% off price.

Do you believe that Big Pharma Companies are selling these drugs to all these people in other countries at a loss? I don't.

Why are we paying more than everybody else? We have been paying too much for years because we have not insisted on getting a better deal.

That's what we need to do. We need to insist on getting a better deal in health care.

What would that be? A single payer system in which everyone gets health care and it is paid for out of our taxes. That is what they do in the countries of Europe, Scandinavia, Great Britain, Canada and Australia.

If you lost access to a group plan because your company does not have one, or you got got laid off and changed jobs or careers or became self employed, you probably got sticker shock when you got quotes from insurance companies, even if you were in good health with no pre-existing conditions. Many people had to opt not to buy policies because they simply could not afford them.

At present, I have insurance through a group plan at my day job, (and it has a very high deductible) and I buy all my meds in the generic versions to save money. However, for the second time in a year, my employer is offshoring my job to India. This is how many people have lost their coverage. A national single payer plan would provide coverage without interruption in such cases. A national single payer plan could not refuse to cover a person because they have a pre-existing condition.

People who do not like the idea of a national single payer plan often argue that if we had that, we could not get the kind of care we want, when we want. That argument is false. I have coverage right now, and there are things that my doctors recommend that the insurance company refuses to pay for. Why is this better? It's not.

The proposed legislation would simply force us to buy policies from the same insurance companies which priced us out of the market or refused to sell us coverage in the first place. It does nothing to stop Big Pharma from overcharging us for our meds.

Can you say "thank you, lobbyists" and "thank you congresspeople and senators for sucking up to them"? If they pass this bill, we will be forced to give money to the very companies that didn't want to help us when we needed help.

It is time for congresspeople and senators to be courageous, do the right thing and make real changes.

I think it is time to insist on a better deal. Take the insurance companies out of the equation. Use the combined purchasing power of a single payer to negotiate better prices on our meds. Health care should simply be available to everyone because it is necessary for life. It should not be a leading factor in causing people to file for bankruptcy.

Water is necessary for life. In most places in this country, everyone can turn on faucets in their residence and get water. It is not free. We all pay for it. We are not told that we all need to go out and drill our own well.

1 comment:

Brock Gunter-Smith said...

Wow, you've said very well what so many feel, have experienced and continue to struggle with. You're absolutely right, it IS time individuals "drill your own well", take matters into your own hand and claim your right to affordable medication and healthcare. Claim your right to be a price conscious shopper and not have protectionism restrict your choice of pharmacies to within a small space filled with price controls focused on corporate profits.

(full disclosure) I work at CanadaDrugs.com and over the last 8 years have watched all manner of efforts come and go trying to hide drug prices in countries outside of the U.S. from U.S. residents. I believe in the pharmaceutical companies needing to make a health profit to encourage research and development of new products, I have no issue with wholesalers and pharmacy chains making profit in the distribution and dispensing...however ultimately this should be a free market as well and allow consumers to dictate to the market what price they can bear by having free choice...including purchasing internationally if that is where the best price is.