I was off work for most of July this summer while I was suffering from acute heart failure and by far the most serious medical crisis of my life. The complexities of healthcare are on my mind more than ever.
I cannot adequately express my gratitude and admiration for the various doctors, nurses, therapists, and other professionals in hospitals, clinics, and companies that develop and manufacture medical devices and pharmaceuticals, whose combined skills have saved my life and set me on the right path to better health. Millions of other heart patients need the same every year, as noted in a separate commentary by Haider J.
Despite all the terrible costs, inequalities, and Byzantine complications of health care in America, I’ve been reminded in the most obvious way imaginable that there may be no better place in the world to be when you’re really sick.
Meanwhile, now that I’ve recovered to an arena with at least as many malfunctions and far fewer virtues—the frenetic world of modern American politics—I find that my patience with its lies and recklessness has waned as much as my heart was broken a few weeks ago.
It pains me to see the witch doctors in Washington working so hard, as always, preparing suspicious potions to cure what ails American medicine. One wonders what fills these shamans with boundless confidence in their nostrils.
Is it the latest wonders that politicians have accomplished with their economic prescriptions, especially with regard to inflation? Or perhaps the way in which their way of being in bed brought the Americans together, as it so often promised, in a rebirth of democratic harmony? Or the comprehensive treatments formulated by the ruling elites to the problem of crime?
Over and over during my medical treatment, the real therapists spoke to me clearly about the risks involved in what they were planning to do, and checked my wishes for resuscitation multiple times in case something went wrong.
Why don’t our political charlatans mention the dangers of their treatments?
Case in point: the imposition of price controls on prescription drugs in the much-celebrated “Inflation Cut Act of 2022,” which Washington Democrats say will calm the planet as well as runaway prices.
I Wrote Two years ago about an earlier, even more comprehensive version of this price-stabilizing drug plan — a longtime favorite among progressives — you wouldn’t often hear it being described as “price controls” by advocates of this legislation. Advocates call it “negotiation” and mean that it just involves using Medicare’s large patient base as a way to bargain with drug companies for more reasonable pharmaceutical costs.
But what is actually being proposed is only “negotiations” in the same sense as Putin’s “negotiations” in Ukraine. althoug current proposal Its scope has been reduced (subject to expansion) it still involves the government setting a “maximum fair price” for selected drugs. And if a company refuses to accept the government rate, its revenue from the property in question will be subject to forfeiture penalties.
It’s not a “take it or leave it” show. It’s “take it or else.”
I think everyone wants to crack down on street drug dealers, as long as the drugs they are selling are legal and save their lives. But I wasn’t fair in suggesting above that no one in government would warn of the dangers of this war on prescription drugs. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was respected warning Congress on the intricacies and potential consequences of its decades-old “negotiating” schemes.
Just Last month CBO has reiterated his belief that one possible consequence of restricting drug companies’ profits to develop new drugs may be “lost innovations” and fewer new drugs reaching Americans who need them.
CBO certainly does not expect a significant drop in ” number One of the drugs that will be released on the US market. Their estimate (“subject to uncertainty”) is 15 fewer new drugs in 30 years, out of about 1,300 drugs likely to be approved in that period.
But more importantly, they add, “CBO did not predict what kind of drugs would be affected or analyze the public health effects of missed innovations.”
If the CBO doesn’t know “what kind” of medicine could be missed by this policy, or what effect it would have on public health, surely the politicians don’t. For decades, I’ve been asking progressive candidates in Minnesota and administrators what exactly they mean by “negotiating” the price of the drug they usually pay and what risks they see in it—and I’ve never received an honest answer.
But let’s think about that. If you were the CEO of a pharmaceutical company that allocates shareholder money, and faced a government bent on denying your organization the full benefit of major new “popular” drugs – the kind that fetch the highest prices – what kind of research projects would you want? give up?
Perhaps the most expensive and most dangerous? People looking for real long-term breakthroughs (possibly cancer, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s treatment, or something like the life-saving heart medications discussed in the accompanying article)?
So-called “fake” drugs and incremental improvements in current treatments may prove better investments in a price-controlled world.
After all, taking on the risks of “lost innovation” in exchange for lower drug prices may actually be sound public policy. All healthcare costs, and drug costs in between, are unsustainable, and life is full of risks and trade-offs. One day, we will have to decide when sufficiency in health care will suffice. We cannot continue to demand ever better care for more people and be shocked when the outcome comes at a higher cost.
But facing the hard facts gets even harder when you’re the one who needs a medical miracle. The lack of a frank discussion about the risks involved in these choices and why they are or are not worth the risk is dangerous to everyone’s health.