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Say 'bye, bye' to prescription drugs

Posted By Harry Browne On 08/01/2002 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

The politicians are competing to prove who is the most compassionate – who’s most determined to bring down the cost of prescription drugs and make health care more affordable for seniors.

But because they show no understanding of why medicines and health care are so expensive and so inaccessible, we know that whatever they propose will only make things worse.

Running up costs

For example, why are doctors and hospitals so expensive?

Federal and state governments have imposed all sorts of regulations on everyone in the health-care industry. Hospitals are forced to admit anyone who shows up at the door, with or without the price of admission. And hospitals and doctors fill out endless forms to comply with federal regulations, to justify Medicare and Medicaid bills, and to prove that they aren’t discriminating.

In addition, the rules allow them to bill the government for only a percentage of market rates – sometimes as little as 25 percent to 50 percent of a normal bill – for their Medicare and Medicaid patients. They have to make up the difference by overcharging their paying customers – including you.

The same goes for all the “free” services and regulations the politicians are so proud of. You’re the one who pays for them.

When the politicians get through “improving” the prescription drug industry, can you imagine how much health care will cost you?

Supply diminishing

Health care is more expensive because the supply of services is shrinking also.

The “Medicare + Choice” bill in 1997 demanded that managed-care providers add more free services – causing over a hundred providers to leave the Medicare system entirely. That left over 400,000 senior citizens with no health plans. The result was less “choice” for the elderly – and everyone else – not more.

And the supply of doctors diminishes because almost every new health-care law makes it easier to sue doctors and other providers – making malpractice insurance more expensive. Some doctors pay roughly half their incomes in insurance premiums, adding to the cost of your bill. Even worse, this causes more and more doctors to leave medicine entirely – reducing the supply and running up the cost further.

Some people think the answer is new laws to limit the monetary judgments. But that’s just more government. A real solution would be to repeal the laws that make such judgments possible.

As the supply of health-care providers continues to shrink and the political demands on the providers continue to grow, health-care costs continue to escalate.

What once was

All this is so unnecessary. America had the best medical system in the world before the politicians started playing doctor.

Dr. Jane Orient of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons has pointed out:

When medical care was mostly paid for by patients, the hospital bill for an appendectomy was the equivalent of 10 days’ wages for a common laborer ($149 in 1960). Now it’s at least a couple months of take-home pay for a middle-income person (about $3,000). They still do the procedure the same way, and the patient is generally home faster.

Doctors used to come to your home when you were too sick to go to them. And they rarely walked away from a patient with an urgent need – no matter how poor the patient. But good works weren’t good enough for politicians. And so we have today’s bureaucratic, inefficient system instead.

And if you think it is more sophisticated technology that’s made health care more expensive, ask yourself why ever-more-sophisticated computers cost only a fraction of what they did 10 years ago.

The FDA

As though posturing congressmen weren’t bad enough, we have to contend with the Food and Drug Administration as well.

The FDA routinely keeps life-saving medicines off the market for years until its administrators are positive they can’t be held responsible for a single death. Meanwhile, thousands of people have died for lack of the medicines – far more lives than the FDA could ever save.

Robert Goldberg of Brandeis University estimated that at least 200,000 American died over the past 30 years because they couldn’t get drugs that were already being used safely overseas. These delays affected Alzheimer patients who weren’t allowed to take THA, people with high blood pressure who couldn’t take beta-blockers, those with kidney cancer who couldn’t take Interleukin-2, and AIDS patients who couldn’t get AZT.

Almost any doctor in the world will tell you that a daily aspirin or glass of red wine helps reduce the possibility of a heart attack. But for years, the FDA threatened fines or imprisonment on any aspirin-maker or winery who wanted to tell you that.

The FDA is run by politicians, appointed by other politicians for political purposes. In effect, its job is to deprive you of life-saving medicines and information. Naturally, prescription drugs are expensive and inaccessible.

Will more government solve the problem?

Bye, bye

So treasure the prescription drugs you have today. When the politicians finish their good works, it’s going to take a lot of your money and ingenuity to get them.


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