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Does Time Matter?

04/20/2017

It is difficult to complain about something you love and adore, but capitalism has failed us in the pharmaceuticals market.  Republicans reflexively allege this failure is due to too much government influence, while Democrats focus on who should pay for this failure.

I am one of the lucky ones.  The Veterans Administration provides my medications at a nominal cost.  They are permitted, unlike Medicare, to negotiate bulk prices from the large pharmaceutical companies.  Of course, I don’t have access to the fancy, new, expensive drugs you see on television constantly, but seem to be just fine anyway.  Importantly, it is simple!  They check me every six months and then renew my meds, which arrive in the mail.  It is simple!

My wife is not one of the lucky ones.  She has suffered from frequent migraines for many years and unfortunately has to rely on private insurance.  From one month to another, she never knows which migraine meds will be approved for discounted prices.  Nine pills can swing from $30 one month to $370 the next month — without explanation.  I assume such price swings reflect variable volume pricing from drug companies, which may be very capitalistic but is also very disorienting and confusing.  In addition, drugs approved last month may not be approved this month — again, without explanation.

The Internal Revenue Service is required to list on each form the amount of time it takes an average person to complete that form.  Drug companies should be required to list how much time it takes the average person to understand their drug choices and drug prices.  Insurance companies should be required to list how much time it takes an average person to compare and contrast their different plan choices every year.  Should capitalism require a warning label that vast quantities of analytical time are necessary?  How much analytical time is possible or reasonable?

I have three degrees from three different colleges, but I am not qualified to distinguish between numerous, ever-changing drugs or insurance plans.  How does the average person?  The obvious answer is that they don’t, but why do we expect otherwise?  Because capitalism requires that we believe analytical time is infinite?

You don’t hear this very often . . . but, HOORAY for the VA!

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