[Readers’ forum] Many guilty for high health care costs


February 24, 2010 - 12:00 AM

The national news media has been inundating us with their reporting of the broken health care system. I believe that they are as out of touch with reality as the ignorant politicians. They report that the primary issue is spiraling insurance costs. It is true that the cost of health insurance is way too high, but none of the media have asked the obvious follow-up question … why? The cost of insurance is rising because the charges filed by the doctors and the high cost of medicine is rising to the point of being ridiculous; and insurance companies are blindly willing to pay for it. Why not? It is not their money!
I am fortunate to be in fairly good health, so I rarely visit the doctor, but I recently was required to seek treatment for an arthritic knee. A specialty clinic tried a “low cost” treatment option. This treatment was a series of shots into my knee joint. When I reviewed the details of the charges, I was appalled…. The doctor charged $110 to administer one shot (inject the needle and squirt the medicine). The medicine in one shot cost $250. Then there was the office charge and the up-front co-pay. Once I was in the room it  took less than a minute to process me. How many of you can relate to this?
Why should the price of medicine be so high? Americans give generously to good causes like heart associations, lung associations, cancer, MS, arthritis, etc. We also support our colleges and universities where much of the research is performed to develop medicines for these diseases. Why aren’t the media and our elected officials asking why medicine cost so much?
How about this scenario: the drug companies get research money from politicians and the charitable organizations; they get quite a bit of grunt work done by our universities; they give doctors incentives to prescribe their drugs. This equates to huge profits. Their huge profits will allow them to purchase a lot of air time on television and cable networks. These networks control the media.
Politicians get their piece of the pie through generous donations from the profits of drug companies. Their contention that the cost of insurance is the problem is only a smoke screen. The problem is them! The result is high insurance costs.
Possibly a start to solving the riddle would be to have comprehensive campaign reform, for the politicians, that would put an end to corporate contributions; limit the incentives that doctors can reap from the drug companies; scrutinize the patent award for drugs to assure that the patent really belongs to the drug company (maybe it belongs to the university);  the insurance companies should review and revise (to realistic standards) what they are willing to pay for doctors’ services; doctors need to realize that insurance companies and drug companies are not bottomless money pits and revise their charges to something that is realistic.
There also has to be a general, and major, cultural change that says, “We do not all need to be multi-millionaires.” Maybe the universities could help society take on this task.

Bill Fritsche,
Iola, Kan.

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