What Is Government So Afraid Of?
(Column: Ask the Pharmacist)
Big corp took the care out of healthcare
Steve Kaufman, RPH
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When I say they I am referring to our government, our elected officials: local, city, state and federal. I was reading in the paper not too long ago about the city fining a gas station in Queens for price gouging. They were charging an extra ten-to-fifteen cents per gallon for gas during the recent shortage. While I am not defending price-gougers, I also read how Exxon and Texaco were making record profits. While stopping price gouging will save us fifteen cents a gallon and reducing the tax (which is outrageous) will save us a couple of more cents on a gallon, our elected officials seem to be forgetting the big problem. They are treating symptoms and not the disease. The problem is the oil companies are ripping us off. They claim shortages yet make record profits. Why aren't our elected officials going after them? Are they AFRAID to? Are they getting paid off by these corporate giants? I don't know the answer, but I would love for someone in the government to explain it to me.
Now I will discuss the problem of healthcare, a subject I know a little more about. In January of 2000 I wrote an article titled I remember when. In this article I discussed how even though technology is better today, I feel medical care was better in the 1960s and 70s. For those of you old enough to remember, think about what a doctor’s visit was like in 1972 vs. what is like today.
In my opinion there are four main culprits: 1. the insurance companies who are more concerned with profits than peoples’ health; 2. the drug companies who charge outrageous prices for basic medications; 3. our criminal justice system, which has made health professionals afraid to do anything because of the fear of liability; and 4. our elected officials who pass laws without ever worrying about how it will affect the health care system.
We keep reading and hearing horror stories about our health care in this country. We see relatives, friends and neighbors who have necessary medications or procedures denied by insurance companies. We see insurance company's impose mandatory mail order for prescription drugs even though it has never been shown to save any money (many reports show it cost more money). Their defense for doing this is cost containment to control the escalating cost of health care. However, if we look over the last ten-to-fifteen years when these insurance companies began to take control, I have not seen them control any costs.
In fact, all I see is the cost of a doctor’s visit, a stay in the hospital, the cost of prescription drugs and health insurance premiums rising at rates well above the rates of inflation. So, obviously their plan is not working. Coincidently, the profits that these insurance companies are making are also increasing at astronomical rates.
Every year the Gallop organization takes a poll to rate the most trusted professionals in the United States in terms of honesty and ethics. For the last dozen years pharmacists and nurses have finished first or second. In 2006, the top three professionals were nurses, pharmacists and veterinarians. The distinction of holding the bottom three positions were car salespeople, advertisers and HMO (health maintenance organization) managers.
Imagine, HMO managers, the people who come up with the ideas on how to control healthcare costs, are among the least trusted professionals in the country, according to the Gallup poll. What I find even funnier is that when the government makes rules and sets new policies, these are the people they seem to ask for help. When the government was implementing the Medicare Part D program, I don't know of any community pharmacist or doctor whose opinion was asked for. When I read the law, I felt it was written by a combination of the drug companies and the insurance companies.
The insurance companies have no problem taking our money that we give them for the policy. So, why is it that they get to decide what doctors we see, what medications we can take or what pharmacies we can go to in order to get our prescriptions filled out? What would you do if you went to a restaurant and ordered salmon and the waiter brought you a steak and said that you have to eat this or go hungry because the owner decided you shouldn't have salmon. You would file complaints with every agency there is until the restaurant was forced to change their policy or close down.
So why aren't insurance companies held to the same standard? The government knows what is going on. Why does our government allow them to do this? Who are they afraid of? Are we the people not complaining loud enough for them to hear? Patients often ask me what they can do. The best answer I can come up with is COMPLAIN. Complain to your benefits administrator at work. Tell them to have the insurance company change their policy or find a new insurance company. Contact your Assemblyperson, your Congressperson, your Senator, the Governor, and the New York State Department of Insurance. Flood them with letters, e-mails and phone calls. Let them know the people are not happy.
We have a new administration in 2007. The democrats are in power now. Let's see if they really are the party of the working people like they claim. It's time for you to stand up to the huge corporations and say no more! It is not going to be an easy task. The system has been abused for nearly two decades, but it can be done. It's time to give the healthcare system back to the people. Let doctors be doctors, let nurses be nurses and let pharmacists be pharmacists. Let us do the jobs we were trained to do and you will see the healthcare system start to straighten itself out.
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