Posts tagged ‘Affordable Health Insurance’

07/20/2011

Drug Companies Need To Be Regulated

The prices for prescription drugs in America are completely out-of-control to a point where the federal government must step in and regulate. Although Congressional Republicans will certainly oppose any intervention, the public needs to understand the issue, so they can elect Democrats, who may impose controls.

As a diabetic, I must inject insulin twice a day. The product I use is Novolog, manufactured by Novo Nordisk of Denmark. Its main competitor is Humalog, by Eli Lily Co. of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Because affordable health insurance is unavailable for me, I must pay cash for one of these medications. The problem is drug prices have been galloping upward, far greater than the rate of inflation, for some time now, and without reason.

When I was living in the Netherlands in 2007, a single bottle of Novolog cost 25 Euro, which translated to $33.00. In 2008, after returning to Wisconsin, the identical vile of insulin cost $91.77, almost three times the regulated Dutch price.

When I moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2009, I shopped for the cheapest insulin, and started buying Novolog at a Walgreen’s, where it was $104.28 per bottle. It stayed at that price for a year.

In April 2010, the price increased to $109.99 per bottle, but that lasted only a few months. By Oct. 2010, the cost of the little insulin bottle had jumped to $121.99.

Three quarters of a year later, in July 2011, at a Walgreen’s back in Wisconsin, the price climbed once again to $132.99. I now pay $100 more per bottle than I did just five years ago.

Unfortunately, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk have a virtual monopoly as they control the world’s supply of insulin. Consumers have no choice, but to pay their unreasonable prices.

It’s not as if the drug companies need money. Eli Lilly grossed 23 billion in revenues in 2010, and realized over 5 billion dollars in profits.  Meanwhile, the profits at Novo Nordisk jumped 34% from 10.77 billion Kroner in 2009 to 14.4 billion Kroner in 2010.

As the greedy and selfish drug company personnel reward themselves at corporate outings with outrageously lavish paychecks and bonuses, someone should tell them their drug prices are unconscionable, and it is immoral to make billions off the backs of those who need their drugs, just to stay alive.

On the assumption the pharmaceutical companies could care less about the immorality of their abusive and obscene prices, the government needs to step in and take control by regulating them.

04/29/2011

U.S. Health Ins.–Pass A $100 Bill

The problem with the American health insurance system is that big insurance companies, big hospitals, and big government, all surrounded a great big conference table, exchanged big smiles and handshakes, and then agreed upon big premiums, big hospital bills, and big bailouts, but no one invited the forgotten little man, or has asked him what he thought.

I realize I am late to the table, but as that little man, I wasn’t invited. In any event, let me digress from the big plan, by interjecting a little idea. Let me start by saying: all of the big boys, with their big ideas, are wrong. The system needs to start with the little man. It must work from the bottom up, not the top down.

The first question in crafting an affordable health care system is: What can the little man afford? By comparison, auto insurance for me runs about $1,200 per year, or $100 per month. While it is much more expensive than it needs to be, it is affordable. It covers liability of $100,000 per person, and $300,000 per occurrence.

I propose a $100 Health Insurance Premium Act. The “$100 Bill,” as it would be known, would apply to all. A young single person would pay $100 per month for health insurance. A family of three would pay $300, and a family of four, $400, and so on.

By universally locking in the premium, all of the doubts and fears of the unknown cost of the health system would fade, and public approval would grow. Without galloping premiums, confidence would be restored. Employers would know their health care costs.

The next step would be for health insurance companies to collect the premiums and to calculate 20% off the top for all of their expenses, to be regulated and approved of by the government.

The third step would be for the government to mandate the coverage that must be provided, under all health policies, using 80% of the premiums collected. Minimum coverage would start at the bottom and work up, focusing on the most common or frequent health care needs, like semi-annual check-ups, sprained ankles, child birth, and so on. The mandatory coverage would stop at the point where 80% of the premiums are exhausted, since that is all we as a society can afford.

The “$100 Bill” would insure the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. Our objective as a society should be to provide health insurance to as many Americans as possible.

While some may fear that brain-dead persons in vegetative states will be unplugged from their life support systems, after time, they will stop being plugged-in, and the issue will become academic.

The nation cannot continue Cadillac health coverage, based on the price of a Chevy. We are going to have to end our long test drive with the Cadillac, and return to the days when Americans saw the USA in their Chevrolets.

04/28/2011

Dutch Health Care: A U.S. Model

After teaching one night class at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse for 8 years between 1995 and 2003, I looked into turning my part-time contract into a full-time position, so I could have health insurance. Although the pay for teaching 3 to 4 classes per semester, as a non-tenured lecturer, was not great, the insurance was attractive, since it was absolutely unaffordable at my self-employed day job.

As luck would have it, a tenured professor resigned in 2003, and a position opened. So, I ceased to be self-employed, and started lecturing full-time. 15 months later, while finishing my last class of the day, I noticed a severe pain across my chest and into my arms, as I was having my first heart attack. At the hospital in Wisconsin, 2 stents were inserted to open my vessels. Luckily, the university’s health care paid all of the charges in the amount of $44,523. I was fortunate to have dodged a bullet with insurance.

After the search committee at Wisconsin finally found a new Phd, I moved to the Netherlands to participate in a one-year program at Utrecht University. To live there, I was required by law to have health insurance. So, in 2006, I purchased a Dutch plan for an annual premium of 445 Euro, the equivalent of $567. No questions were asked about pre-existing conditions or prior care.

Five months after arriving in the Netherlands, I had a second heart attack in Dec. 2006. The Dutch care was different, in that it was better. Unlike Wisconsin, where I laid there for what seemed to be an eternity, before permission from the insurance carrier was obtained to keep me alive, the Dutch doctors went right to work, as they knew everyone in their country was covered. They didn’t have to waste any time asking about coverage.

A cardiologist inserted two stents in my heart, and opened up my arteries, including one that had been 100% blocked, but written off in Wisconsin, because the American doctors thought it was too hard to get to. I was copied in on the Dutch ambulance, hospital and doctor bills, and they totaled 7,024 Euro, which translated to $8,920.00. My care in Holland was only one-fifth the cost of the identical care in Wisconsin, but in some ways much better. I was very fortunate to have had my second heart attack on their soil.

I learned several lessons from having virtually identical heart procedures in Wisconsin in Dec. 2004, and in Holland in Dec. 2006: 1) Dutch health insurance premiums are significantly lower and affordable; 2) Dutch insurance asked no questions about pre-existing conditions or care; 3) Dutch doctors got to work immediately, without wasting any time trying to find out if I was covered, since everyone is covered; 4) Dutch charges for the identical treatment of inserting two stents in my heart was only one-fifth the U.S. costs; 5) Dutch follow-up care was superb, as I never waited very long at all to see a doctor; 6) Dutch care, all things considered, was better than what I received in the U.S.

Politically, the lessons are: 1) Don’t listen to right-wing nut jobs, who try to convince Americans that European health care is somehow sub-standard, since it is not; 2) If the Dutch can cover everyone with pre-existing conditions, then so can we. 3) If the Dutch can run their health insurance companies, while charging much lower premiums, so can we; 4) If the Dutch can operate their hospitals on one-fifth the billings and costs, then so can we. We in the U.S. should consider the Dutch health care model.

04/27/2011

U.S. Heath Ins. Must Be Affordable

Like most people, I was healthy enough in my early years to have no major health insurance needs. My employer’s group health insurance covered the torn Achilles tendon I had while playing basketball, and through 1990, I had no insurance problems.

Shortly afterward, however, my employer passed away, and I went self-employed. No longer under a group plan, I purchased an individual family policy. Things then changed four months later, when an insurance company nurse tested my blood, and told me I was a diabetic. Within days, my health insurance was cancelled.

Once I was diagnosed a diabetic in 1991, the premiums for any private health insurance plan became cost-prohibitive.

I tried Wisconsin’s state-run high-risk pool for people unable to obtain private insurance, but the premiums for that also increased with each payment, at galloping rates, and I had to drop it, as it became unaffordable.

I maintained a policy for my children only, but as a diabetic, I had to go without. For the past 20 years, with the exception of two years, when I was teaching enough courses at a university to qualify for their health plan, and another year, when I was in Holland, under their health care law, I have been uninsured.

I watched with great interest the national health care debate. I understand President Obama does not write the laws, and the bill the Congress sent him was written by the insurance lobby. I have little confidence in it, because it mandates insurance, but does not regulate premiums. Under such a scheme, individuals like me, or the government, or both, are going to get ripped off.

A single payer plan would have been better, but I don’t blame Obama. I reserve my angst for the right-wingers who use the term “Obama-care” in a disparaging way. What is their solution? Their answer is to leave everything to the private sector, the same profit-taking carriers who abandoned me 20 years ago, and pushed me out of their system, with their astronomical premiums.

Although Obama and the Democrats made progress with the health care law, the issue remains: What is affordable health insurance? To this day, no one has even attempted to answer that question. My fear is the definition of affordable used by the wealthy health insurance executives is vastly different than mine.

So, I still don’t have health insurance, because it is not affordable for older people like me, who have had a history of health care issues. The overall health care system will never work properly, until the question of cost is addressed, and a truly affordable premium is locked in through a tough regulatory scheme.