Mainstream healthcare in America has been abducted by the pharmaceutical and insurance companies. As profits have moved to the center stage, patient care has become secondary.
We need to make healthcare more affordable for Americans once more. We can start by creating a law that drugs in the U.S. be sold at world market prices. This would eliminate the excessive profits that allow Pharmaceutical Giants to support the biggest lobby and drug marketing programs the world has seen. Drug sales in the U. S. accounts for almost half of the $643 billion world pharmaceutical market.
Year after year drug companies enjoy higher profits than any other industry in the United States. In 2002, the top 10 drug companies in the United States had a median profit margin of 17%, compared with only 3.1% for all the other industries on the Fortune 500 list. The pharmaceutical companies state that drug price increases are necessary to fund their Research & Development of new drugs. Why do Americans have to fund this R&D for the rest of the world, when the rest of the world pays significantly less for their drugs? As it is, we already play a major role in funding R&D through tax-payer funded and government research. If anything, we should be buying drugs discounted below the world market price average. The higher drug prices in the US also mean that we are paying for the marketing of these drugs to us. In some cases, Big Pharma spends twice as much on marketing, advertising, and administration as they do on R&D. This is yet another reason for us to be paying less, not more. The cost of marketing and research should not be a burden that is born by Americans, especially when those that bear this burden are the ones least able to afford it, the sick and elderly.
If the recent bailout of the banking industry has shown us anything, it is that compensation packages to executives tend to be outrageous. This is no less the case with Big Pharma where compensation packages reach into the tens of millions. This doesn’t make sense when senior citizens throughout America are forced to make the choice between paying the high cost of prescription drugs or buying food. As the economy faces a depression and unemployment climbs, the number of people who are in this predicament will also increase.
Another way to increase the quality of healthcare in America is to take back control of patient care away from insurance companies. Insurance companies do not heal or treat anyone, physicians and health practitioners do. Insurance companies have stepped into the role of determining what happens with patient care as opposed to the healthcare practitioner. Insurance companies sell a promise and then figure out every way that they can not to deliver on that promise. Patient care needs to be solely in the hands those who have been trained to address it.
Unless the next President and Congress make reforms that favor the interests of its citizens over that of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, healthcare as we know it will continue on, business as usual. Some single payer plans call for lifestyle changes and patients assuming a greater degree of responsibility for their own health. These include the areas of diet, weight loss, cessation of smoking, and exercise. Although, I’m not convinced of the suitability of the single payer plans to fill our needs, they do show some merit.
The bottom line is that we as Americans need to take greater personal responsibility for our own health. The choice always has been and always will be ours. It is not up to others to make this right for ourselves, it is up to us.
Jack LaLane, an American icon, once said, “Exercise is King and Nutrition is Queen. Put them together and you have a kingdom.” Perhaps, the time has come for us to claim that kingdom.