Sunday, December 4, 2016

Why health care should not be a for-profit business

Martin Shkreli made headlines last year when he bought out the pharmaceutical company that makes the anti-parasite drug Daraprim -- and overnight raised the price from $13.50 per dose to $750.00.

Following a public reaction that made Shkreli a pariah on social media and in news headlines, he agreed to cut the price of the drug for hospitals and needy patients by 50%, which Shkreli claimed would make it more affordable ($375 a pill) and also allow the company to still make "a very small" profit;   but private patients and insurance companies were still charged the $750.

Now some high school students in Australia have made the drug in their chemistry lab for the equivalent of $2 per dose.   Shkreli at first went on a twitter war, pointing out that the students didn't have to pay for the lab space or the equipment or the know-how of their teachers;  of all the other costs of actually producing and packaging correct, reliable doses.  That did play to his favor much better, so he finally switched to praising the ingenuity of the young people.

The point is that the corporate world runs on profit and greed.   The health of our nation is too important to relegate it to that realm.   Does the fire department check out your bank account before they come to put out your house fire?   Do the police ask for a credit card when you call them?

One reason medicines cost us so much is that the Bush administration, in setting up the Rx drug insurance program, put in a clause (demanded by their donor drug companies) that forbid the government to negotiate lower prices for the huge amounts it pays for through various government programs.

Sooner or later, we will join other advanced nations in adopting universal, single-payer health plans, paid for through taxes.    So many more people will be covered;   so much money will be saved through elimination of administrative costs and advertising.   Medicare is the most successful, most favorably reviewed government social program we have.    Why not just expand it to cover everyone?  But, with this election, it looks like we may have to go backwards for a while here before we figure it out.


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