With the coronavirus bearing down on us as we reap the results of the incompetent boobery of a president whose proud, deliberate, cultivated ignorance wasted about two months of epidemic preparations,  we need to maintain vigilance concerning other health care issues.

          A lie floated by Republicans opposing the Affordable Care Act was that it would create “death panels” which would determine who would receive treatment and who could not. Thanks to GOP inaction on skyrocketing prices for prescription drugs, such life or death decisions are being made by pharmaceutical companies as they price patients out of the market – and out of their lives.

          On Feb. 10, the Associated Press reported, the cost of prescription medicine is so much cheaper in Mexico, that the Utah’s insurance program for public employees can fly state workers to San Diego and arrange for them to buy drugs at a Tijuana hospital and “give them a $500-per-trip bonus and still save tens of thousands of dollars.

          California is considering “launching its own generic-drug label,”  and “Louisiana has a Netflix-style program for hepatitis C drugs, where the state negotiated a deal to pay a flat fee rather than for each prescription.”

          Wyoming News Now TV reported Feb. 19 that the Wyoming legislature is studying whether to follow the example of many regular Americans and import prescription medicine from Canada.

          “According to data provided by AARP, in Wyoming 35-percent of residents stopped taking medication as prescribed due to cost in 2017,” according to the TV station

            Last August, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention paper announced, “Nearly 18 percent of working-age adults with diabetes are rationing their own medication by taking smaller dosages, waiting to fill prescriptions or skipping the treatments altogether,” according to Huffington Post.

          These are people in the work force. “Not surprisingly,” Jonathan Cohn continues, “the uninsured group was most likely to skip medications (including but not limited to insulin and other diabetes therapies). Among non-elderly adults with no health coverage, 35.7 percent reported not filling a prescription because they didn’t have the money. 

          “But it is not like they were the only ones making such choices. Among non-elderly adults, 14 percent with private insurance and 17.8 percent with Medicaid said they, too, were declining to fill prescriptions because of cost.

          “In other words, people without insurance are struggling to pay for their medications, but so are some people who have insurance.”

          Lives have been lost.

          When the House Oversight Committee attempted to investigate skyrocketing drug pricing last year, Republican lawmakers advised Big Pharma folks to not cooperate.

          By the end of last year, Daily Kos reported: “The Democratic House has a drug pricing reform bill. The Senate has a bipartisan bill, sponsored by the powerful Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and passed out of his committee…The Senate, however, isn’t moving on it, and it’s all because of one person: Moscow Mitch McConnell.” The sticking point seemed to be that it might make Democrats look good. Lives have been lost.

          (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)

High drug prices jeopardize lives

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