COST OF MEDICINE PART 3

A former patient wrote recently.  He was hoping I could give him advice as to what he could do to help control the price of medicine and medical care. He thought he would write his congressional leaders and ask for their help as well.

In the 45 years since I started in medicine, I have heard many congressional leaders promise to take on pharma and the insurance industry.  In the 45 years since I started in medicine, things have gotten worse, not better!  Is pharma more powerful than Congress and the president?  Or does campaign rhetoric simply fall by the wayside after our leaders are elected?

I believe we have many problems that effectively guarantee that pharma will continue to rake in obscene profits at our expense.  Today, I’ll address the top two problems. The number one problem is that pharma contributes large amounts of money to candidates running for office. 

According to an article in Newsweek, “The pharmaceuticals and health products industry has donated more than $5.9 million to Biden’s presidential campaign, according to OpenSecrets.org, a site run by the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political donations.”  Can I independently verify this information?  Of course not.  Does it surprise me?  Of course not.  Has Biden done anything to reign in Pharma?  Again, the answer is no! Imagine how much Pharma spends on political campaigns if they spent $5 million on Biden alone.

While we buy into campaign promises, there is no mechanism for assuring that the candidates keep their promises once they are elected.  To make matters worse, we tend to re-elect the same individuals despite their lack of performance. 

As I see it, the second problem is that our leadership is covered by the same insurance available to an average citizen but that their policies are at the “Gold” level; and they are reimbursed by the federal government for 72% of their costs.  Until they feel the pain of paying $750 for a months’ worth of medication, they will not be incentivized to pass legislation aimed at controlling the cost of medicine. Perhaps the answer is not only to assess the candidates platform but, if he/she is an incumbent, to pay close attention to how many of their former promises they have kept.

In a future article, I’ll address tort reform and the role lawsuits play in increasing medical costs across the board.

Joke of the day – If con is the opposite of pro, then is Congress the opposite of progress?

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