Nearly half of our population is on prescription drugs, the majority of which are painkillers, drugs to treat high cholesterol, antidepressants, and antidiabetic agents. With 76.2 percent of physician office visits involving drug therapy, we need to be asking ourselves why we are so focused on drugs as therapy, as opposed to incorporating more thorough healing mechanisms. Diabetes, for example, is a health-related issue. High cholesterol is a health related issue. While doctors do give nutrition advice, this advice can be contradictory to even a government study, amongst many others, that advocate for deeper courses of action to produce the most effective results.
As it is now, our healthcare system is a largely for-profit industry, making the prices of certain services unsustainable and unaffordable. Our pharmaceutical industry is a for-profit industry, and so it makes money when we are sick. Not only does it make money, but if we hold personal investments in this industry, we also make money from it as individuals.
With our current models of investment — seeking the maximum amount of profit for our inputs — the health care and pharmaceutical industries must maintain a certain level of growth in order to maintain competitive rates with other industries in the market. Due to the nature of the market, their growth must either occur through increased drug sales or increased prices, which incentivize unsustainable and unnatural practices within the industry.
Rather than having an industry that operates on a model which allows for true fluctuations in market demand/need, we have a different model, and this model affects all of us. It affects the ways in which we speak about health and the ways in which we act on our health. Not only did our healthcare program help bring us out of the 2008 recession through job creation and industry expansion, but it also sits as a central pillar to our economic stability as a top contributor to our GDP. Rather than a system of health care that is upheld with practices of deep healing, our system is upheld on practices that largely treat our symptoms.
All of the above affect our ability to move forward into a comprehensive, affordable health care system, be it Medicare-for-All or something else. This needs to change.
Health Care Act of 2017
When operating our healthcare from a purely business-minded perspective, we get something like the American Health Care Act of 2017, a bill that passed the House but has not been made law, especially after receiving high criticisms from politicians and the public alike. This bill was the largest of any healthcare bill on the table in the past two years, and so it is important to observe its objectives.
This bill includes measures such as cutting off funding to the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which not only provides funding to preventative health programs — the ones that are most effective in treating the root causes of our ills — but also helps to regulate the rate of growth in health care costs. If the rate of growth in costs is not regulated, this means that a competitive market may be created in the industry, leaving the wealthy able to afford quality care and the poor unable.
The bill would decrease the level of income that qualifies an individual’s eligibility for Medicaid and would put further limitations on the program’s ability to expand, meaning less people would be covered by affordable insurance. It would reduce funding to community-based attendant services, or services that assist individuals with mobility complications. The bill would also impose a work requirement as a condition of eligibility, save for a few exceptions. This means that anyone who is out of a job for reasons unrelated to pregnancy, having a child with disabilities, or being under the age of 19, would be ineligible for affordable healthcare.
All of these areas are problematic when providing coverage for the US, as they would make healthcare wildly unaffordable and inaccessible. Estimates say that the number of people uninsured under this bill would increase by 22 million by 2026, and over 200,000 unnecessary deaths could occur over ten years.
Luckily (or unluckily for whoever takes the presidential reins next), recent attempts to reopen progress on healthcare legislation were immediately shut down and put off for the 2020 elections.
Future Health Care
While it’s important to recognize the Health Care Act of 2017’s inhumane nature, it’s also important to recognize its aims, as they are indicative of measures that may require development moving forward.
The bill focuses a great deal on supporting systems for Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s), which is important if we are to move into a single-payer plan. If we were to have a single-payer health care system, as is desired by upwards of 70 percent of the population (85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans), we would want to have in place robust systems for supplemental health care and savings accounts. Some of the provisions outlined in this bill include increasing the limits on HSA contributions, allowing married couples to make contributions to the same account, and permitting an HSA to be used on medical expenses that were incurred before the HSA was established.
Supplemental healthcare and savings programs are desirable, because public healthcare is meant to cover our essential health needs and not necessarily more. Therefore, supplemental health insurance and savings plans are beneficial. In a universal health care system such as Canada’s, the decision as to whether certain items are covered is left to each of the country’s provinces. British Columbia progressively provides coverage on gender-affirming lower surgeries, for example, while other provinces do not. People in the other provinces would need savings plans in order to afford such an operation.
In the United States, we can hardly agree on abortion care. While the debate over abortion has been brought to the surface and made a tool for further divisiveness, it is important to recognize a potential purpose for this manipulation. The bill focuses on cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood and cutting back abortion care services to only cases of rape, incest, or cases that are necessary to save the life of a person who is expecting, which would bring us to the most basic form of abortion care possible. This basic form of health care, whether we agree with it or not, would create a common ground on which to build a universal healthcare plan. From there, additional items may be added over time.
Rather than relying on each state to hold the responsibility of delegating whether any additional funding would go toward further services, the power of decision could alternatively be left to the individual.
On items that are not universally agreed upon, there could be a public trust with specific items to which to contribute. So, if you agree with universal coverage for in-vitro, gender-affirming surgeries, abortion procedures outside of the above mentioned, etc, you would choose to pay a specified amount for each of these items. Additionally, preventative and alternative health measures that are not widely covered could be a part of this fund, including acupuncture, nutrition counseling, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, etc. Anyone in the country seeking coverage for these services could pull from this public trust and use the money toward their procedures or treatments. Depending on the popularity of coverage, items may be added into the Medicare program over time.
Transitioning from the Affordable Care Act to Medicare-for-All
This is where the rubber meets the road. The current debate is whether we, as a country, could afford Medicare-for-All. The real question is, is it even possible to create a sustainable or truly health-oriented healthcare system when working with a for-profit pharmaceutical industry and a partially for-profit healthcare industry?
The answer to this question relies, in part, on the vulnerable nature of whether Political Action Committees (PACs), pharmaceutical companies, government, insurance, and healthcare providers are able to come together with the people’s best interests in mind.
At its best, a single-payer healthcare system would be able to control the rate of growth of the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, keeping costs steady. A single-payer system could also alleviate drug companies’ needs to put money toward advertising and help them focus instead on health solutions, studies, and developments.
At its worst, these agreements could keep us on the path of consuming increasing amounts of prescription drugs and at increasing prices.
The only way to know the true motives of PACs, pharmaceutical companies, government, and insurance is through clear and direct communication. Only then may the government and the people come together over truly unified solutions.
The best that we can do as individuals in the meantime is to be as proactive and as educated around preventative health and health solutions as possible.
Why America Is the Only Rich Country Without Universal Health Care
Universal health care is a system that provides quality medical services to all citizens. The federal government offers…www.thebalance.com
What Does the Future of Biotechnology Therapies Look Like? | An Introduction to Biotechnology
Biotechnology is still a relatively new field with great potential for driving medical progress. Much of that progress…www.biotechnology.amgen.com