Our current health care system is deeply flawed. It is costly, inefficient, and it doesn’t even cover everybody. Free-market principles have failed with Obamacare because the demand, that is, being sick, has been too high, and private for-profit insurers have been losing money since the cost of providing the service of insuring sick people has been much more than they anticipated. Major private insurers have therefore decided to drop out of the health exchanges in many states across the country. Hopefully, this will force lawmakers to finally take a serious look at a single-payer health insurance system, also known as Medicare for all.
Health care should be viewed as a public service, not as an industry, since the way that for-profit insurers make money is by denying health care to the very people who need it. In fact, the reason why Obamacare is failing is because it has not allowed for a public option and has relied primarily on private for-profit insurers. When the Affordable Care Act was being written, private insurers and the pharmaceutical industry rejected the idea for a public government-run plan to be offered alongside theirs because they knew it would hurt their bottom line.
The current uproar over the price gouging of the anti-allergy and potentially life-saving drug vehicle EpiPen further highlights the inadequacies of our health care system. Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan, during a recent interview was unapologetic for her actions of raising the price of the EpiPen, stating that she is “running a for-profit business”. The very fact that private enterprise is exploiting people’s dependencies on products that keep them alive to make a profit is wrong and inherently in moral conflict.
Even with the elimination of its primary competitor last year, free-market defenders argue that Mylan had every right to jack up the price and blamed too much regulation for hampering competition. Those who don’t believe in regulations and who are blaming the FDA for blocking competition are completely insane. We are talking about people’s health. The FDA is not blocking competition. It is a federal agency, and is there to make sure the drugs that are prescribed to patients are safe. This type of “regulation” is necessary to make sure the drugs that we take will cure us, not kill us.
Proponents for the pharmaceutical industry argue that drugs are expensive to create, and a lot of funding needs to go into the research and development of creating new drugs, but the EpiPen device was developed by taxpayer funding from our own government. All Mylan has done is acquire EpiPen from Merck in 2007 and repackaged and marketed it to increase the price by roughly 400 percent.
Capitalism is about having a choice on whether to buy a product or not. People who need life-saving medications like the EpiPen have no choice. In countries like Canada, prices are regulated and are therefore much cheaper and are actually affordable. We need to do the same here.
The answer: Single Payer.