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Liz Smith-Anderson: Health Care?

In the March edition of YC Magazine, York County (SC) Green Party writer Liz Smith-Anderson addresses our nation’s healthcare system and plans to change it.

Health Care?

This past year has been a trying one for many people. Losing your job means losing your health insurance, if you were lucky enough to work for a company that still provided health insurance as a benefit. During the past 12 years, health insurance policies were pared down to the minimum while the premiums escalated. Only God could help you if you had a pre-existing condition.

Now a new administration has taken over with promises of coverage for all. I am no expert on the subject and don’t pretend to be. What I do know is that what we have now works only for the very wealthy or the very poor. Those of us in the middle have very few options; we are a medical emergency away from total financial ruin. Worse, we will not have access to the latest and best treatments available simply because we cannot pay for them.

Wealthy 70 year olds are able to obtain new a new heart while a nineteen year old woman I know wastes away from severe Multiple Sclerosis simply because she cannot afford the $5800 per month price tag for the ONLY option left to her. She faces a lifetime of monumental debt (up into the tens of thousands of dollars already in the first year of her disease) and does not qualify for disability because MS is remitting and her disability is not ‘permanent,’ yet.

Teva Neuroscience is an Israeli company and they happen to be the ONLY manufacturers of Copaxone. Copaxone, according to this woman’s doctor, is the only option left to her. But the price tag is staggering. Family and friends have scrambled to try to come up with a solution but none of them have $5800 a month for the medicine. Teva offers a one-time $5000 discount. One month on the medicine will not be long enough to evaluate if this is going to be an effective treatment and yet no agency, no official, no one has been able to offer this young woman any hope that she will be able to obtain the medicine she needs.

The drug companies have gone far enough and any proposal for health coverage in this country has GOT to include prescription drug availability. We should not met out healthcare to only those who can pay or to those for whom the government will pay. There is no earthly reason why the taxpayer should pay for a child to go to the emergency room for an ear infection because it is “free” while a cancer patient sits at home waiting to die because they can’t afford chemo. And this happens every single day in this country.

Copaxone costs $1700( US ) if you purchase it in Canada. Why do the Canadians get this wonder drug as such a reduced cost? Maybe Teva would like to answer this question. They advertise on the very first page of the magazine of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Momentum. What they don’t advertise is the cost.

At this very moment we have the most powerful lobby pushing for the exclusion of drug companies from any national healthcare policy. The drug companies have the goose that lays the golden egg over and over for them and they are determined to protect it. Frankly, they have us all in between a rock and a hard place and they know it. They hold out these drugs as a miracle, advertise them on TV and then snatch them away in one fell swoop by making the cost prohibitive. Unless you have erectile dysfunction, then the government will move swiftly to approve a little blue pill so all the men can be smiling like Bob. Bet that little blue pill doesn’t cost $5800 for a month’s supply. God forbid Bob stop smiling.

The Green Party’s main goal is to introduce a system of Universal Single-Payer Health Care for everyone living in the United States. We support expanded preventive health care which has been shown to greatly reduce costs. Our system would include public health care clinics and support for both traditional medical/surgical care and alternative medicine.

To be able to provide affordable, quality and accessible health care for all Americans whole scale reform is necessary. The United States is the only industrialized country without a national health care system. What we have now is a private insurance system that insures only the healthiest and wealthiest people. The insurance companies have systematically denied coverage to individuals with “pre-existing” conditions and routinely terminate coverage to those who become ill.

“Health care a human right, and The Green Party supports a single-payer national insurance program for the United States. This program would be publicly financed at the national level, administered locally, and privately delivered, i.e., private physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers would remain private and competitive, and consumers given full choice of provider.” Source: Green Party Platform, at 2000 National Convention June 25, 2000.

The Green Party is way ahead of the curve here and has been for a very long time. We are fully prepared to hold the drug companies and the healthcare provider’s feet to the fire and INSIST that the level of care be the same for all citizens. We cannot continue on with this bankrupt system of healthcare only for the able bodied and wealthy. If the Canadians can buy Copaxone and make it available for all those in need, why can’t we?

As more and more people lose their jobs and insurance we will see more and more people in need of medical care. The biggest cause of bankruptcy in this country is due to medical costs. One stay in the hospital can wipe out your savings. Long time married couples get “disability” divorces because they don’t want their spouse to be alone and penniless after their death. Is this how we should proceed?

The drug companies have spent more than 800 million dollars in federal lobbying and campaign contributions in the past 8 years. Their money has been well spent as they have successfully fended off price caps and importation that would have hurt their outrageous profitability. They have reaped millions of additional dollars in profits due to the laws passed by the Republican controlled government. Our own government is barred from negotiating lower prices for Medicare due to legislation enacted at the behest of these pharmaceutical companies.

Americans fund the development of new drugs at a rate higher than any other nation. What are we getting in return? The drug companies make a bigger profit in the United States than any other country in the world. The Green Party is ready to offer real solutions…are you ready to listen?

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