When was the last time you told your doctor, “Your prices are too high, I’m going to your competitor.”
What? You’ve NEVER said that?
It seems like every day I’m reminded how the free market is the answer to everything. “Don’t intrude, the free market will automatically correct! Bad businesses will fail, good businesses will thrive!” Politicians claim this like it’s an indisputable truth. When companies like Microsoft get too big, lawyers rush in with anti-trust legislation and break the company up into smaller parts because things like price fixing are unfair and bad for the economy.
Today, health care costs are out of control. More citizens declare bankruptcy over health bills than any other cause. Politicians are pulling out their hair because they’re figuring out that discovering a health care solution is “hard.”
It’s not hard. The answer is simple: break up the monopoly.
Take away the McCarren-Ferguson healthcare antitrust exemption for a start. For the record, the bill was co-sponsored by a Democrat and a Republican in case you had any lingering doubt that both sides are out to get you.
A few months ago the pharmaceutical company Mylan got into trouble for raising the price on their EpiPen 500%.
Under normal free market capitalism, this wouldn’t work because another competitor would keep their price the same, or lower their price for the sake of publicity. But Mylan had no competitors.
Why don’t they have competitors?
Monopolies are illegal.
Everybody has had a issue with price inflated medication. When I was younger, I had a doctor suggest I use an Advair inhaler to treat my asthma. The product worked, but at $250 a month I wasn’t able to afford it.
So I asked, “Is there something out there that’s 80% as good but costs 20% as much?”
Instantly the doctor came up with a half dozen possibilities. He got on the phone with the pharmacist to ask which ones were available. He sat there for a long while scratching out the names of medications on his tablet, “no, no, no…” When he was done he turned back to me. “I’m sorry, Advair has bought up all the competitors and discontinued their production. They believe Advair should be the only treatment available.”
He seriously told this to me with a straight face. Tough luck if you happen to have an adverse reaction to Advair. Even as a teen I couldn’t see how that was reasonable. What if people can’t afford it?
Make them afford it seems to be the response.
Big pharma knows that illness is a way to extract every dime a person has ever earned throughout his or her life. If your children get sick, how much are you willing to pay to help them get better? Allowing the mechanism for such blatant extortion to exist severely erodes the incentive for working hard and contributing to our nation. Illness is inevitable and it means you lose everything.
When I moved to Peru in my twenties, I went to a pharmacy on a whim to ask about an Advair inhaler. The price was fifty dollars a unit and it was buy two get one free.
It was the exact same medication.
Another rallying cry of politicians is deregulation. They have no problem with dumping coal sludge into fresh water, but when it comes to importing inexpensive pharmaceuticals from abroad suddenly they become hypersensitive to detail. Recent legislation to bring in competitively priced medication from overseas was rejected on the grounds that without FDA supervision these products were “unsafe.” So we can’t have clean water or reasonably priced medications? What about the axiom that the free market “corrects all problems?” If pharmaceutical manufacturers make poor products they’ll go out of business. Nobody thinks overseas medications are unsafe, our government just wants big pharma to have a monopoly so they can practice price fixing and have enough extra cash to continue paying off our politicians.
You do have an option and that is to get your medical care overseas. You literally can live for years on what basic medical treatments cost in the US. So don’t pay them! Don’t pay for your kid’s education in the US either. The fact is, competition does exist across our borders and competition leads to reasonable prices. When the price is fixed refuse to pay! We don’t have to put big pharma out of business, we just have to hurt their profit enough to erode their slush fund for bribery.