By: Andrew Akagawa
Obamacare has had its issues, and Washington is in a frenzy trying to put together a new healthcare bill, but are these efforts really aimed at solving the causes of our healthcare problems, or are they just shuffling things around? No matter which way you split it, healthcare is ridiculously costly, and it seems like there’s just not enough money to go around. So rather than focussing massive efforts on how to insure people, why not focus more directly on how to lower the cost of care?
In early February, Sanders and Cruz debated the topic on CNN, both from drastically different viewpoints, however it was amazing how much they seemed to agree on many of the systemic issues that are driving up costs. If we can work together on some of these issues, we could probably make some major progress regardless of how public healthcare is delivered. So here are three areas that we believe should be investigated before anything else:
High profiting insurance companies are absurd. Americans are now legally mandated to have insurance and punished on our income taxes if we cannot afford this. We have no choice but to give our money to insurance companies in return for our healthcare. So why the should they be entitled to any profit? The whole scenario is a dangerous precedent for insurance companies to make some very easy money.
If insurance companies have a surplus of cash, then it’s time for them to lower premiums and deductibles, and stop rationing care. Otherwise, maybe it’s time we tax insurance company profits more aggressively. If that’s too left of center, then maybe the government should just endorse and help grow some of the most competitive non-profits to help drive market costs down. Whichever means to get there, our money should be reserved for our healthcare, and not for the profits of insurers.
Regulation from FDA and HHS has served an important role in delivering safe and effective care, however over the course of several years legislation has become heavy and ineffective in keeping up with rapid technology changes. Before we scrutinize a healthcare bill, maybe we should review and optimize FDA and HIPAA legislation. In doing so, we should be asking if the legislation doing it’s job? Is it overly inhibiting to practices or new technologies such that the inhibitions do not outweigh the benefits and risks? How can we better clarify legislation for new technology companies to create safe and effective disruptions in healthcare that can lower costs for all?
Understandably, drug companies need to be able to profit from the risks and efforts that they endure when developing new drugs, but how much is too much? A post published by consummerreports.org comments on the greed of CEOs like Martin Shkreli, raising the price of Daraprim, a treatment for toxoplasmosis associated with HIV and cancer, from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Setting a drug pricings has now come down to asking what’s the dollar value of a human life. There must be a more reasonable middle grounds, where drug executives have the opportunity to get rich enough, while others can still afford treatment. The post goes on to explain how government can help, including imposing out-of-pocket cost limits, better facilitating the release of generic drugs, and allowing for drug importation, which is currently illegal in the US. One approach that both Sanders and Cruz could agree on, is to allow for Medicare to negotiate prices with industry.
In summary, Obamacare is certainly not the cause of all of our healthcare problems, nor does Trumpcare seem to be the solution. The true cause of our healthcare problems is simply the cost of care. It’s furthermore disappointing that we, as one of the most innovative countries in the world, have not been able to solve this yet. However, we can hopefully remain optimistic that the issue of high costs is largely non-partisan, and look to the future for what we can come up with going forward.