In their 51 attempts to repeal Obamacare, some politicians cite its unwarranted interference with the free market. Perhaps they are defending the same free market that Turing Pharmaceuticals used recently to raise the price of Daraprim by 5000 percent.
One day, the drug, necessary to combat parasitic infections in the compromised immune systems of cancer patients, sold for $13.50 per pill. The next, that same pill cost $750. A course of treatment for this one drug would now cost patients $63,000. Turing’s CEO, former hedge fund manager Martin Shkrelli, explained the price increase as guaranteeing a “reasonable profit” to his company. After all, he said, “I am a capitalist.”
There’s just one problem with that viewpoint: Health care is not a free market. Those requiring it cannot forego the goods and services it provides, cannot negotiate with providers in advance of provision and so cannot act as free agents in the health marketplace.
The results? Half of all bankruptcies in this country are prompted by medical bills. As private insurers pass on more costs in the form of higher premiums, deductibles and drug costs to an aging population, we can expect financial burdens to increase.
Our health care costs per capita ($8,508) are twice those of other advanced countries ($3,406), but our results rank us dead last in access, equity, quality, efficiency and outcomes.
Don’t Americans deserve the same kinds of health outcomes other advanced nations have purchased at half the cost? Mr. Shkrelli was eventually shamed by media coverage of his profiteering to moderate Daraprim’s cost. How do we shame the rest of the private health care industry?