One thing that everyone has in common is the need for good health and well-being.
From the moment we are conceived through old age and eventual death, we will face numerous medical emergencies, illnesses, injuries and the need for professional medical treatment. Our health needs are paramount to our survival.
We in the U.S. spend about 20% of our gross domestic product on health care and medical services. In perspective, on average 20 cents for every dollar in your pocket and in your bank account is going to be used for health care over time.
Americans pay at least twice as much as the average economically developed country for health care. Our health care expenditures are nearly twice as high as the closest developed country, Germany, and we spend about four times more than residents of South Korea for a lesser level of care.
Despite the huge expenditures for health care by Americans, of the 17 most economically developed countries, our life expectancy comes in at No. 16, as does the number of infant deaths per live birth.
In other words, despite the highest costs for medical services in the world, we are ranked in the bottom 5% of economically developed countries. Our health care system is underperforming.
A few years ago, one of my neighbors was bitten by a rattlesnake that snuck into his garage. After five days of successful anti-venom treatment at a hospital, he was shocked to see his medical bill at just shy of $1 million. When my neighbor put the bill through his insurance plan, his carrier was only charged $13,500 and the debt was fully paid off.
My doctor prescribes me a weekly 1.25 mg vitamin D-2 supplement. My Medicare Part D pays $35 for the generic version, but I can buy the same vitamins over the counter for $12. Why is the government paying three times the retail cost? What is more shocking is that the name brand for the same 15 caplets is $550.
There clearly is a dirty game going on with health care costs. No doubt there is some serious padding going on with our health care bills.
The arbitrary inflation of medical costs and unchallenged monopoly seem like racketeering to me. It is the duty of Congress to protect our pocketbooks and prevent monopolies from taking advantage of the consumer.
But Republicans in Congress have been making sure we are gouged endlessly and that the greed of Big Pharma remains unchecked.
The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 was passed by a Republican House and a Republican Senate, and signed by Republican George W. Bush.
Effective in 2006, this bill created Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit available for seniors and younger persons with disabilities covered by Medicare. However, the bill forbids the government from negotiating volume discounts with pharmaceutical companies.
Bottom line, Republicans elevated the federal government as the world’s largest buyer of prescription drugs and at the same time ensured that big pharma could set any price for their goods without contest.
One has to wonder why Republicans wish to guarantee the pharmaceutical industry as an unchecked monopoly and prevent any bargaining leverage.
Open Secrets estimates that pharmaceutical and health product companies contributed a record $372 million into lobbying Congress and federal agencies in 2022. Surprisingly, the majority of these political donations went to Democrats. I suppose the Republicans are already bought and paid for.
Democrats have been fighting for years trying to allow the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices on our behalf. In 2021, Democrats introduced HR3, which would have removed the feds’ anti-negotiating restriction on bulk drug purchases for Medicare. This bill would have lowered health care costs across the board. But this bill died with Dems voting in favor and with no, zero, Republicans voting for the measure.
Fortunately, this Republican-backed unfettered price gouging is about to change.
President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act passed last year finally breaks the Republican ban on reducing health care costs.
The Biden plan authorizes the feds to negotiate down prices for 10 life-saving drugs used by people who are covered by Medicare. In 2024 the list of negotiated drugs will be expanded to 25.
Action by Biden and the Democrats will save taxpayers billions despite Republican insistence that prices exorbitantly remain high.
Your vote is critical to ensuring that continued cost reductions and taxpayer savings are a top priority. Vote out those in office who place health care lobbyists’ interests ahead of our collective well-being.
Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the CFO of an accredited acting conservatory, is a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.