Socialization, Innovation and Pie

In reading countless mind numbing health care articles lately, I’ve time and time again come across the the idea that socializing medicine will somehow halt or significantly slow the innovation of new life saving medical treatments,  drugs and equipment.

There simply won’t be a financial incentive to find a cure cancer if you aren’t going to get rich selling it, right?

And if the insurance companies who are run by the drug companies who are the ones funding the research to make them bigger and more expensive drugs they can then charge whatever they want for aren’t making money off the drugs anymore… well, you get the idea.

The way I understand it, most companies  are motivated by profit.  And profit and innovation don’t necessarily go hand in hand when it comes to medicine. In other words: I’m pretty sure the current system doesn’t do a whole lot to provide incentives for  innovation either.

Take this for example: Any finance-driven, company run, research facility is going  prioritize research and development of disease treatment drugs that maximize profit and need to be taken on a daily, lifelong basis rather than invest time and money in curing said diseases completely. Why spend money creating a cure that will cause you to lose millions of life-long customers and untold dollars? It simply doesn’t make sense from a business perspective.

So, how then can we create an incentive to make actual life-saving innovations that are independent of the profits lost by curing the disease rather than requiring people to buy a company’s product for life in order to live? What about the diseases that are less common, and therefore less lucrative? What about diseases that primarily affect the lower class and therefore are less profitable than say, investing money and research into developing something like Viagra?

Many claim that ours is free market system and where there is a need, someone will fill it.

It’s not really fair to call the current system a free market system when the individuals options are: Pay whatever price the insurance companies demand: Pay whatever the cost of life-saving treatment happens to be or: Die.

The theory of the free market as I understand it is that the need for some product or service creates companies which then fill that need, and in doing so, compete with each other to gain the public’s patronage, which results in prices leveling out, based on what people are willing to pay to have that need filled. Supply and demand. And if the prices rise too high, the market levels itself out because people refuse to pay more than something is worth.

But- in the case of health care-people can’t simply refuse to get treatment until prices are lowered. Not if they want to, you know, live. And as an individual our only option is refusing to buy insurance to force down costs, and that is ineffective as well because then if we do get ill we are forced to use the emergency room thus driving up the costs for everyone else even more.

It’s a never ending cycle where the people can’t win, society as a whole isn’t benefiting, and really, the only happy ones are the insurance and drug companies who are making humongous profits with wasteful, pointless drugs and procedures.

It has become so that  people can’t afford to not have insurance that covers even routine and preventative care by artificially raising the costs of such care.  I, for one, would have been more inclined  to pay out of pocket for simple routine doctors office visits and pay less for insurance overall, but now even the cost of an average fifteen minute, procedure-free  doctors visit is about seventy dollars. Which is rather ridiculous.

And if you get a serious or chronic illness, forget it. Without insurance you will undoubtedly go bankrupt trying to pay for it all.

Chronically ill people need drugs and treatments, in many cases just to continue to live.  And usually one company manages to corner the market with a drug with patents and secrecy, making it so there is virtually no competition to drive the price of that drug or treatment down. And the cost can be hiked up, not because the company makes the best product and therefore deserves the best price for it, but because people simply have no other choice, and they know it. Forcing a person to pay exorbitant fees for life saving medications and procedures-or forcing them to suffer the consequences- is essentially extortion.

Pay the price, or die.

When the health care industry is driven solely by profit margins and not the ultimate well being of people, everyone loses.

There has to be a way to actually make insurance companies competitive, and provide incentives for drug company research that actually saves lives rather than just increasing profits.

So, I’m all for a government program that funds lifesaving research. Drug companies claim the costs of medicine are so high because it costs so much to research and develop new medications and they lose so much money on failed attempts. Well, fine. Honestly, I think they should be able to charge whatever they want for things like Viagra.

But, the things that save lives? Diabetes treatments, asthma inhalers, cancer medication? The list goes on.

No. I think these things should be taken completely out of the hands of for-profit companies. I think we should have a government funded research center that exclusively develops life saving medications and treatments. I think it should be linked to the charities that work tirelessly to support these causes, and I think the drug companies should be given incentives to A) Donate money, and B) Pay their employees to donate their time.  Give them tax breaks,  give them ponies. Whatever. Also, the people that are willing to work there should be well compensated. Give them ponies too.  Because the only way some of these diseases are ever going to be cured is if it’s not going to take money out of the hands of profit driven CEO’s to actually do so. And because the people with cancer and diabetes shouldn’t be dying because the drug companies want to make a buck off their medication.

I also think the government should create a completely new system-and abolish the old wasteful, mismanaged ones- that provides care to a few key groups, no matter what. Specifically, children, the elderly and the chronically ill, mentally ill or otherwise disabled.  Use the money that is currently going to medicaid and medicare.

(Need more money? Stop wasting tax money making commercials and pushing the whole seat-belt law on adults, and stop making us pay to feed, house and clothe drug addicts in prison- but that’s an entirely different post. And to be clear, if you don’t put seat belts on your kid, yeah, you should get in trouble. Don’t put one on yourself? You are stupid and should know better by now. Don’t make us pay to enforce laws that protect people from their own stupidity. Same thing with drugs. Don’t sell them to kids. Do I care if you want to use them yourself? Should we pay to feed you when you go to jail for it? No. Ahem. Moving on.)

As for peoples gripes about how they shouldn’t be forced to pay taxes that go towards a health care program for other people:

We live in a civilized society, not a third world country. And, as a civilized society: Yes. We should all bear the responsibility for caring for the old, young and infirm the same way we all pitch in to help build roads and schools and all of the other things that make this country better than a third world hellhole.

Here, we don’t leave our elderly  out on the ice when they become a burden, or expose infants to the elements when they are born ill.

If you are one of those who doesn’t think you should have to pay for health care for kids because you don’t have any? You may not have any, but I bet you were one once.  And chances are, you will be elderly too. Or you could be run over by my a car and become disabled. You never know.

I’m repeating this in case you missed the point: In my ideal world, there absolutely would be a health care option that provides for people who are elderly, children (and pregnant women,) and those who are facing illnesses that make it impossible for them to work.

And those people would not have to jump through bureaucratic bullshit hoops to have access to that care.  We don’t need to hire thousands of paper pushers to get these people enrolled. Make it simple. When you are born, you automatically get health care that covers you until you are 18. When you get ill, pregnant or become disabled, your doctor sends in a paper and you get health care. Once you retire, you get health care.  No matter what. Oh, and when you get old, you get to go to a decent retirement community. That’s paid for too. And doctors have to accept this coverage. Even the good doctors. Hand out more ponies if you have to- make it worthwhile-but make it so.

I know it could be done- most likely with money we are already paying in taxes. Get rid of the bullshit and waste and pointless bureaucracy, take care of those that genuinely need it, fund the research that’s going to actually save lives and come up with a way to make insurance companies competitive enough to drive the prices down to a reasonable, manageable level for the rest of us. Because my insurance premiums shouldn’t cost more than your mortgage either.

That’s not to much to ask, is it?



Filed under Rants, Rambling, and Musing.

3 responses to “Socialization, Innovation and Pie

  1. Becky

    You think way too clearly this early in the morning. I didn’t read anything about pie though. Darn, I wanted some pie.

  2. pandorican

    In all fairness, this took more than a day. I just POSTED it this morning.
    Dude, make us some pie!

  3. Becky

    If you were closer, I TOTALLY would!!!

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