The Ridiculous Cost of Health Care

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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.

10 Comments on “The Ridiculous Cost of Health Care

  1. Well, let me enrage you further…..even for diseases like cancer there are more ways to approach treatment but big pharma shuts them all down as viable treatment. I know of one approach that showed success at even curing a cancer, don’t remember which one using, conventional medicine and practice with insulin. This approach used way less chemo and worked way better because the insulin could isolate cancer cells so chemo could attack only cancer cells and not every rapidly dividing cells in the body. I would certainly go for that. But chemo drugs are exquisitely expensive, this approach seriously reduced the amount of chemo needed. I’ve seen this study, there is documentation. I’m not against medicine and I certainly appreciate the professionalism and knowledge of my doctors. I am against drug companies profit so immensely from my disease while I worry about affording to live the life they saved.

    • Wow! You know I think I heard- maybe in that report or somewhere else- that there were other ways. That went right over my head. I asked my acupuncturist how eastern medicine treated Cancer, and he didn’t really know. That does make me mad! Thank heavens I have my Chinese herbs so I can sleep through my rage. I actually think my cat Buster is a Health care supporter. I wrote almost this entire blog, and he jumped up in my lap. His paw hit some key, and the whole thing was wiped out. I had to start completely over. He got a good cussing!

  2. To whom Cares, I currently got a full time job with benefits thank God for the benefits. however ,My pay is minim wage 8:15 an hour so basically working for insurance. I pay $ 144.05 every two weeks for these benefits. I have to be positive and do the best I can. Mary

  3. Sharon this subject hits a nerve with me, as it should with everyone! Like many I pay dearly for my Heath insurance. When I first purchased a plan through Blue Cross back in the 80’s it cost me about $350.00 pr month. Now that was a lot for me at that time, self employed and struggling. For that same exact plan today I pay $1350.00 pr month. For years the premium remained relatively unchanged. Then about twenty years ago it begain to increase a little each year. For the last ten years or so, every year they have increased the monthly premium substanaly. It is a stuggle each month to pay it. Financially speaking I can honestly say that my Heath insurance is by far my biggest concern, at this stage in my life.
    I don’t have enough time this morning to go into all the thoughts and feelings I have about the Heath care system and there cost. But I can tell you what the Heath care industry offers today it is a mess! There are lots of people just like Mary working everyday just to have the security of Heath care. And just as many sitting on there butts everyday watching “The price is right” and getting it for free. Now this is just ONE aspect of this entire issue. Those old people that you described, the ones that showed up for the meetings. They are scared, and that breakers my heart. The old deserve better, maybe at some point in the life they made a wrong decision that got them where they are today. Maybe life just threw something at them they didn’t deserve. What ever the reason they should not have to live in fear. Some of those people are spending there life savings just to maintain there health and or health insurance.
    I should just shut up, Sharon unlike you I tend to not make any sense when I get on a rant…. LOL Please If you have do any additional research on this and find something you think would be useful, please share it with us.

    ps: Thank you Sharon! You may not know it but YOU do make a difference in people’s life’s with your words. Keep it up!!! Have a great day.

    • You are welcome, Cy. Thanks for the reassurance. Sometimes I wonder if anybody reads this, and, if they do, if it really matters. Then I remember that it’s for me.

      I’m sorry that you have to pay so much for insurance. I long for the days when I was young and didn’t worry about it. Today has been rough. Writing about it and reading about it made me very afraid. Take care, Cy, and thanks for commenting.

  4. I also resent the insurance companies. Premiums have skyrocketed, deductibles are through the roof to the point that one wonders what the point is of paying for insurance. And now a new tactic. Now, they try to mandate buying prescription drugs through the insurance company owned pharmacy, not your local pharmacy, and paying your deductible back to them. I know of at least one hospital that has pushed back, telling the insurance company that if they insist on doing business this way they will have to cancel their contract with this insurance company. This is for specialty drugs which the insurance company owned pharmacy cannot even provide, but the insurance company wants to refuse to pay for the drugs unless they come from their pharmacy. My doctor assures me it will get worse. I feel for all of us, young and old. Our elderly do deserve better. But our young also deserve a better chance. So many have aged out of their parents policies but cannot even think of affording health insurance. I was given a prescription for oral nausea medication. Went to the pharmacy to pick it up and they told me my total was $210.00, I paid less than $5.00 for this same medicine, with the same insurance company last year. The 200 dollars is the price the insurance company negotiated with the drug manufacturer. The pharmacist offered that I could pay retail price which was $24.00. This alone proves we are not paying for insurance, we are paying to be extorted. Wouldn’t it be something if the entire country decided to no longer participate? If we all let our health insurance lapse and refused to be a part of this farce. What would happen? We would all have thousands more dollars in our pockets. What if the doctors sided with the patients? It’s way too complicated for my mind too Sharon. But I know there is a better way. Thanks for starting this conversation. It’s important.

    • Omg!!! I can’t believe that story about the nasal spray. How freaking ridiculous is that???? That is absurd. There has to be a better way.

  5. Sharon, you have no idea how frightening it can be when you don’t need but have to have insurance and prescription coverage. I am on dialysis for kidney disease. You can’t even begin to imagine what I have to pay out of pocket just to survive. I go to dialysis 3 days a week and numerous dr appts a month. I am a retired state employee on disability retirement. I don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid coverage because as a state employee I did not pay into Social Security. So, I have no choice but to keep my insurance coverage. I have also reviewed the new policies for next year and it scares me at how much more out of pocket I will have to pay just to survive. If, I stop dialysis, I am signing my death warrant. I too am not scared of dying, just not sure if I am ready to die at 57. So, I am having to review very carefully to make sure I select a plan that will cover a kidney transplant. Some do for a huge deductible and some with a co-pay. The medication alone for living after a transplant, just 1 alone is over $3000.00 and I will have to take these the rest of my life. So, yes, I am just like those older people you saw this morning, scared to earth, how we will continue to pay for insurance coverage. Thank you so much for writing these blogs that give us a chance to educate those that don’t have medical problems. I also, love reading your other blogs, so keep them coming.

    • Thank you, Cindy, for commenting. I had no idea you were dealing with such major health issues. My heart goes out to you, and I’ll add you to my prayer list. I only hope something gets better sooner than later.

      My co-worker and I were talking about the fact that state workers don’t get social security or Medicare. That is totally ridiculous. I just started with the state last year, and I know I need to leave ASAP because of that. They never told me before I took the job, and I had no clue.

      I’m pulling for you!

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