Greed may yet trigger health system change


ARE GREED, THE 2016 election(s),

Wall Street, the federal budget and the national debt all linked?

There may be more than one correct answer, but “health care” is at the top of the list.

These connections are what make feeding the beast that is our health care system so difficult.

First, we know Republicans are virtually unanimous in wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. They say the nation can’t afford it, it’s socialistic because it forces people to buy a product, and it’s a bad deal for the many paying more in premiums than they get in benefits. Doesn’t all insurance work that way?

Better dump this model, opponents say, and give those who need help paying for health care a tax credit or some subsidy to buy coverage in the private marketplace. Isn’t that just a variation of Obamacare? Or are we talking about a system that allows companies to maximize profit by insuring the most healthy and wealthy, dumping everyone else on the “government” and then whining about federal deficits and its “inefficiencies”? In other words, the “get sick, get canceled” scenario that victimized many pre-Obamacare.

Capitalism is the best economic system in the world, but it’s subject to mischief when it bumps up against a product or service such as health care that people must have.

For example, when vultures can get the rights to a medication with no competitor, they can, will and have jacked up the price to obscene levels to take advantage. The $1,000 per-pill for hepatitis C drug Harvoni, and another fellow who bought the rights to the drug Daraprim that had cost $13.50 a pill and immediately jacked it up to $750 are but two recent highly-publicized cases of people taking advantage of defenseless patients as well as the rest of us who end up paying more to fund these get-rich-quick schemes.

There may have been a time when our elected officials in Washington would try to figure out a way to devise a 21st century health insurance system that prevented such outlandishness. They might even have compromised — remember that word? — to devise a system that sought fairness, accessibility and affordability. Admittedly, that’s no small task.

Instead, we have politicians increasingly bankrolled by special interests, including those who profit handsomely from the old system and don’t want it messed with. So they belittle anyone who makes a serious effort to address this huge problem. President Obama is the No. 1 target for criticism, even though he won two elections convincingly in part because a majority of voters agreed that something needed to change.

Significant change might eventually happen. If the jackals who run up the cost of drugs and otherwise take advantage of the sick don’t knock it off, public outrage might result in a single-payer system to put them out of business entirely. — Leader-Telegram, Dec. 7

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