The High Cost of Health Care
- Today, fewer than 50% of companies offer medical insurance to their employees and most employees must pay for part or all of their costs to participate in a group insurance plan. Meanwhile, premiums have risen to an outlandish level.
- The situation is even worse for the 36 million Americans who live without any health insurance or those who can only afford low-coverage plans.
- Drug prices, both brand name and generic, are soaring. By the year 2018, total spending on prescription drug prices will cost $1.3 trillion, up 4-fold from $326 billion in 2013. And despitethe Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, the cost of many generic drugs also continues to skyrocket.
- For example, doxycycline hyclate, a generic prescription antibiotic, costs about $20 for a bottle of 500 tablets. By 2014, the price for the same quantity of the same drug rose to $1,849—a price increase of over 8,200%.
- Congressional investigations into price gouging by Big Pharma have gone nowhere.
- If the generic drug market is to avoid the current stranglehold, a free-market environment must be implemented. This would allow the price of most generic drugs to fall and Americans could once afford the medicines they need.
Congress Overwhelmed with Pharmaceutical Lobbyists
The effects of this price gouging are devastating for Americans who rely on certain drugs every day just to survive.
In response to news reports of these prices spikes, Congress launched investigations and spawned legislation with the intent of combatting spiraling health care costs.
The Senate committee looking into high-priced generic drugs concluded with an announcement that legislation—later named The Medicaid Generic Drug Price Fairness Act of 2014 (S. 2948; H.R. 5748)—would be brought before Congress in an effort to mend the cost crisis.
The problem with this legislation is that it made no attempt to alleviate the burden of high generic drug prices on consumers. Instead it would force pharmaceutical companies, which billed Medicaid at prices that rose faster than the inflation rate, to pay a rebate of some kind. Like putting a bandage on a mortal wound if enacted into law, such modest provisions would hardly put a damper on the rising cost of medicine in America. Despite being an ineffective attempt at curbing high drug prices, it would at least be a step in the right direction, and if passed it might slow the rate at which pharmaceutical companies are bankrupting programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Yet this drop-in-the-bucket solution never made it out of committee, and it subsequently died in Congress.
After decades of rising generic drug prices, and with no feasible end in sight, many Americans have been left asking, who is to blame and what lies behind the curtains? This would lead many to think, “Why hasn’t Congress done anything about this?”
The answer is that the United States Congress is so heavily lobbied by the pharmaceutical industry that it has been effectively incapacitated from enacting any legislation that would in any way hinder the profit margins of Big Pharma.
According to the Campaign Finance Institute the amount of money spent directly by an incumbent member of Congress to win congressional elections has risen 344% from an inflation-adjusted $360,000 in 1986 to a whopping $1.6 million in 2012. This is vindicated by a research report from Cornell Law, which now proves that on average, 30% to 70% of a sitting member’s time is spent raising campaign funds instead of tending to constituents, official duties, or legislative affairs.
Jon Corzine spent $63,209,506 to win the US Senate seat in New Jersey. Hillary Clinton spent $29,941,194 on her Senate win in New York. The remaining Senate winners spent an average of $4,737,365. Inflation adjustment based on average 2012 Consumer Price Index. Source: Campaign Finance Institute
Follow the money trail and you will find the truth. You are what you invest in your health, not how good your insurance coverage is. We find that some of the most ill patients we encounter in practice have the “best insurance” and have many unnecessary procedures performed just because they are covered. It is disgusting how American politics dictate the health of so many that simply cannot afford the rising cost of healthcare and medications. I have preached to many of our patients that this is no time to get behind in your health and become trapped in this medical mess. We as Americans need to be more proactive instead of reactive when addressing our own health. I was inspired to blog about this by a new patient I had the other day that came to see me about alternatives to asthma medications. She specifically said she cannot afford the price hike of Advair, nor its generic at $304 a month. Last year, we had patients with the same concern when their insulin costs climbed sharply. Year after year the cost of cancer treatment is skyrocketing. Big Pharma is the real drug cartel of today.