Off the Press

February 7, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

State of health care can make one sick

Tom Corrigan Press reporter

OK. This just makes me sad and angry. And frustrated. All at the same time.

Someone I know just received some of the most devastating news you can get, summed up succinctly in one word: cancer. Two ugly, evil, little syllables that can completely change your life and that of those around you.

So how do you react upon finding out those syllables have targeted you? And your family and friends, who are going to be affected by whatever comes next? The first feeling to arrive has to be disbelief, followed quickly by fear. Fear, and then probably anger and hopelessness. I’m sure I don’t need to point out what a joyride this all isn’t.

At some point, of course, you have to sit down with your doctor, a person who literally has taken an oath to help you. Most likely, that doctor is going to urge you to fight, is going to tell you that your very being isn’t something you have to just give away. Words such as “chemo” and “radiation” are likely to come up, just as they did in the case of the person I’m writing about. This person’s particular doctor also suggested a particular medication on top of those other treatments. Probably not that unusual, to be prescribed a simple bottle of pills.

Did I mention this bottle carries a $100,000 price tag?

Let me repeat that for effect: A $100,000 PRICE TAG!

This is not a joke. This is not an exaggeration. It’s an obscenity. This person’s insurance co-pay for one treatment is going to be $20,000. And that’s just for the pills. It doesn’t include the chemo and so forth or any other necessities that are bound to come along.

One more time: $100,000!!! For a bottle of pills!!!!

Are they experimental? No. If they were, the insurance likely wouldn’t cover them at all. So, what kind of pills can cost $100,000? Hopefully, the kind that can save a life. Still, to my knowledge, they don’t exactly come with a money back guarantee.

How does this happen? How did we get stuck with a medical system that actually would dream of charging somebody more money than most of us make in a number of years for pills? One assumes what patients taking this medication ultimately are paying for is the research that went into it. Obviously, research is important and obviously somebody has to pay for it. But why have we chosen, or allowed, the medical system to put the financial burden on people who are fighting for their lives and maybe, just maybe, already have enough on their minds without having to worry about bankruptcy?

Honestly, the questions seem almost endless: How is this in any way fair? How is it that we allow it to continue? How can we seriously think we’ve had health care reform when this kind of idiocy is allowed to go on? How do doctors, who are sworn to protect life, tell people who can’t afford the bill to just go curl up in a corner and die?

I don’t pretend to have any answers. Somebody does indeed need to pay for medical treatments and research. But it says here the current health system is unacceptable and morally wrong. If that sounds preachy or melodramatic, so be it.

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