It’s no secret that health-care costs in the U.S. are higher than in any other developed country. Worse, in a study by the Common Wealth Fund, a nearly century-old England-based organization whose mission is to promote a high-performing health-care system, the U.S. compared to similar countries — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom — failed to achieve better health-care outcomes than its counterparts. So when it comes to rising costs of health care, especially when it comes to pharmaceuticals, we can’t help but wonder, where are our legislators?
While there hasn’t been a vast movement to fix our broken system, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act being one of the only exceptions, five federal Senators have been pushing a bill since 2014 that would allow U.S. residents to legally purchase from Canada prescription medications due to their risings prices over the last couple of years, sometimes as high as 500 times the previous price. The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act, sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and supported by one other Republican, two Democrats and one Independent, was brought forward in January, though Congress has not voted on it yet
While current laws do not allow for such transactions, the federal Food and Drug Administration sometimes withholding packages from their intended recipients, it has been estimated that over 6 million people are already buying medication outside of the U.S., despite FDA warnings that such medicine might cause further health problems. But the fact is, it’s cheaper elsewhere because the price reflects what patients can afford. It the U.S., it’s high because we can “afford” to pay those prices — though that’s just an illusion. Price gouging is not only dangerous, but can be fatal.
While not every lawmaker is on board, in another move to cap drug costs in August, Massachusetts lawmakers began pushing a bill that would force drug makers to justify their prices by disclosing how much they spend on research, production and marketing. Just recently, in a widely publicized example of price gouging, a move made out of what appears to be sheer greed, hedge-funder Martin Shkreli purchased a pharmaceutical company that produced a life-saving drug for AIDS patients and raised the cost of one pill from $13.50 to $750, a 5,000 percent increase. It’s truly despicable that the haves can force the have-nots to go into unconquerable debt to save their lives or just allow them to die.
For this year’s breast cancer awareness issue, women from all over the county shared their stories about dealing with the disease. While the cost of medical care wasn’t at the forefront, in the U.S. the average cost of a year’s worth of cancer treatment is over $100,000, some as high $300,000. While more people now than ever have health care insurance, the fact remains that there are still high copays, particularly for prescription drugs, with the cost of brand-name medicines being out of reach for some and now generic medicines following the same path. With so much suffering, it’s practically unfathomable that our health care system profits substantially from illness. As medicine continues to advance, with the hope of better treatments to stop the advancement of dire diseases as well as a pronounced focus on preventive drugs, we ask our legislators to come together and find ways to take back the health care system so that everyone has a fair shot at survival.
Affordable housing win in Ventura
Negotiations over affordable housing for a proposed 255-unit apartment complex, the Downtown Ashkar Project, finally ended in an agreement after years of debate late last month, with advocates securing 16 units for low- to very-low income residents, which will remain so for 55 years. Both low- and very-low income applicants will have equal number of units available — four studios and four one-bedroom apartments.
We applaud both developer John Ashkar and the ever-persistent affordable housing advocates for reaching this agreement and providing much needed housing in an area full of low income jobs and in a city lacking in affordable housing for all.