BY: CHRIS KERNAN-SCHMIDT
Americans are no strangers to the high cost of healthcare. Those with more niche conditions like diabetes, cancer, and arthritis, just to name a few, suffer high out-of-pocket costs. The inability to purchase life-saving medicine such as insulin at a reasonable cost is a major factor of the failure of the American healthcare system.
Insulin is a drug that diabetics use to help control the level of sugar glucose in the blood. It is a necessary medicine for diabetics to live — without it, death would be certain. As a diabetic, my insurance routinely pays over $3,000 for a 90-day supply of this life-saving medicine. I am thankful that I have quality insurance to support my disease, but many are not so lucky. Some insurers will choose to cover less expensive but not as effective biosimilar insulins, resulting in patients having to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for quality care. After seeing the costs of my medication, I decided to research why it costs so much. There must be a reason, right?
Despite manufacturing processes remaining relatively the same, prices of insulin have tripled from 2002 to 2013 and continue to rise (CBS MoneyWatch). The reason the price of this medication is so exorbitantly high is the free-market nature of America’s health care system. Simply put, manufacturers increase the price because there is a higher demand for it. Regardless of a patient’s insurance or financial status, the price remains the same. This price-gouging of life-saving medication is morally wrong and should be legally wrong, but, unsurprisingly, it is not.
Diabetics are not alone in this struggle. Medical costs are high across the board while our healthcare system is failing us. Recently “prices for a cancer drug called lomustine have skyrocketed nearly 1,400 percent since 2013, putting a potentially life-saving treatment out of reach for patients suffering from brain tumors and Hodgkin’s lymphoma” (CBS). Because of the lack of competition for many of the companies, price gouging is an easy, albeit morally gross, way to increase profits. Did I mention in most cases it is perfectly legal?
When a diabetic can fly across the country, drive to Canada, purchase a 90-day supply of insulin over-the-counter (same brand), and fly back all for less than the price of the same 90-day supply in the U.S. and save approximately $1,000, you have a problem. The status of healthcare in America is failing most vulnerable around us: the poor, the uninsured, and the chronically ill.