I’ve been receiving an inordinate amount of emails with information on our upcoming open enrollment for health insurance. It was such a crazy amount of email that I decided I’d better watch one of the webinars to see see what was happening. It was obvious that there were some major changes and not for the good. I determined which plan I needed, and I’m relatively healthy – or so I think – and I made my choice. A friend called me excitedly complaining about the big changes in the state’s insurance and how much more it was going to cost his family for health care coverage. It seemed everyone I talked to that was impacted by the changes were either choosing to ignore it or they were downright livid.
I have a girlfriend who is undergoing chemotherapy, and this is not her first go-round. I asked her if she ever thought about skipping the treatment and letting the disease take its course. She said she had. She said that the dying doesn’t really scare her. In fact, she said that dying would actually solve a lot of problems. She added, “It’s not my health I’m uncertain about, it’s fucking money. I hate money.” She’s not the only friend I have that is reeling under the financial impact of cancer’s grip. It has shocked me how expensive it is to treat the disease. I had absolutely no idea.
My parents went to an informational meeting this morning because they are on the state plan. It was of such concern to them that they got to the meeting 2 hours early. They were worried sick about the changes and how it might impact them if they had a serious health issue in the next year. She told me 60 Minutes investigated the cost of cancer drugs last night. I looked it up and watched it today. I was horrified to discover that there is a law that Medicare cannot negotiate the price of drugs. Whatever price tag is on them is the price they pay. My friend told me that some doctors were beginning to push back on the drug companies about the cost of cancer drugs, and one particular case is the lead in this story. You can watch it here.
I’m not saying that our health care players are evil. I am saying that something is terribly, terribly wrong. In what fantasy did our lawmakers ever think that corporations of any kind would monitor their own prices and price fairly. Everybody wants to make money. Doctors have enormous student loan debt, and we need our doctors. We need great sources for pharmaceutical drugs. We need research, and we need innovation to keep up with all of these illnesses that we have like Ebola. But, why can a pharmaceutical company cut the price of a drug more than half because some pressure is put on them by an article in the New York Times. And between them and the customer are doctors, pharmaceutical representatives, Pharmacy Benefit Managers and insurance companies. The end user is a nameless number on a market analysis. And if the pricing isn’t random, why do the same drugs cost less in other countries? Why do doctors get a ‘commission’ for using their drug over a cheaper one? No wonder our medical costs are rising faster than any other nation’s health care system.
I don’t have any answers. It’s way too complicated for my brain. But, I know this morning my heart was breaking. I told Momma I would meet her and Daddy over at the meeting. When I drove up into that parking lot 40 minutes before it started, I thought I’d arrived at Tiger Stadium on a Saturday afternoon. Cops were directing traffic, and the parking lot was overflowing. They moved the meeting because the first room had filled up. When I entered the lobby where the larger meeting room was located, about 200 people were jammed into the lobby. A man came out and said the room was full with 750 people in it. I walked out and was greeting by hundreds of elderly people with anger and fear in their eyes. Men in LSU shirts on their scooters passed by me. I told one that the meeting was full, and he despairingly went over to his car to load his scooter back on it. Groups of women and couples kept walking when I told them the room was full. They were going in to wait for the next meeting in 3 hours. These people were worried, and I felt really sad that people should have to be so scared about something like their health … and it wasn’t their health that worried them. Like my friend said … it’s the f*cking money.
I saw my acupuncturist this evening. I asked him if they had Western Medicine in China. He said they did. He said they usually share space with Eastern Medicine practitioners. Some hospitals will have one floor for Eastern Medicine and the next floor for Western. Or they may have buildings that are connected in some way. They make room for both. I wish that our country was not so dependent on a system that is designed to keep you in its care for life. Certainly, Western Medicine is needed for diseases like cancer and to control issues that can’t be managed with herbal medicine. But, aren’t there many other conditions that can be treated by holistic practices that aren’t so costly and scary? Why don’t we have both? Yes, my acupuncture costs me money. My insurance providers ONLY incentivize me to go to doctors and take drugs. I’m not given incentives to take care of myself in other ways. Western Medicine treats symptoms. When you get off the drug, you still have the problem. When I got off my anti-depressant that I was on for 20 years, I still had anxiety. I started on an herbal medicine that costs $20 per month 6 weeks ago and my anxiety is better controlled than it ever has been. And I have NO side effects. Herbal medicine is designed to heal the disease and support the body in healing itself. Why are we so fixated on this one dysfunctional system that keeps us dependent and allows predators to hold us hostage? If I wasn’t outraged before, I am now.