Monday, March 29, 2010


It seems to me that the new health-care reform measures don't do much of anything to investigate causative factors of the exhorbitant costs of care, or to lower those costs -- only "how to get (or enable, or force) us to pay it" has been addressed. I think they're barking up the wrong tree.

Here's my plan:


Outlaw public advertising of prescription drugs. Those TV commercials ("Ask your doctor if this drug is right for you!") and two-page magazine spreads are presented to encourage use of prescription drugs and increase sales. The commercial spots are expensive to the companies, and we pay for it in higher drug costs. Another less-obvious but expensive form of drug advertising is aimed directly at physicians in the form of visitation and gifting by pharmaceutical representatives ("drug reps.") Company employees book appointments with physicians and give them a presentation about a specific drug (information? or propaganda? Since the info is supplied by the drug's manufacturer?) AND buy lunch or dinner for the entire office staff as a magnanimous gesture. They keep track of how many prescriptions for X the doctor writes, and they'll ask him next visit, "Why are you not prescribing X more often?" They bring cakes, cookies, and donuts, and free gifts of clocks, insulated coffee mugs, and exam-table paper printed with the names of their drugs, just as a few examples. On a large scale, I can't imagine how much all this must cost. In the rural physician's office where I worked, we could count on lunch from a drug rep once or twice a week. They'd call in the morning and ask what restaurant we wanted, and the office manager or receptionist would call the restaurant with our orders, and at lunch the rep would bring it in take-out boxes. My daughter in a large city has a friend who's an office nurse and says they have lunch provided EVERY SINGLE DAY from drug reps.

All of this should stop. No more TV and public-magazine advertising (medical journals are a different situation) and drug reps should not be allowed to give doctors anything but ink pens. Drugs have to carry a hefty price tag for the manufacturers to turn a profit after all this advertising and bribing.


Outlaw class-action lawsuits, which often reimburse individuals who never suffered any ill effects of a drug or treatment and never filed suit. Outlaw prescription-specific litigation advertising: "Have you or a loved one been injured by Yaz? Levaquin? Crestor? Etc.? Etc.? Call our law firm NOW!" Success or settlement of these cases increases the price of drugs yet again.

Outlaw commercial advertising by medical-injury litigators. "Have you been injured, sickened, or killed by a medical mistake? Does your child have a birth defect? Have you started sneezing? Call our firm and GET MONEY." Physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, and other care practices, out of necessity charge the consumer more in order to cover their liability insurance. The only place litigation attorneys should be able to advertise is the newspaper and the Yellow Pages. Medical litigation is a feeding frenzy.

Consumers should, indeed, be able to bring suit for legitimate damages. But put an end to frivolous lawsuits: if the litigant loses, they pay EVERYONE'S court costs, including the attorney for the defendant, all of the court staff, lost wages of anyone testifying... every single cost incurred by anyone involved in that case.

Set a cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded, keeping it relevant to the actual cost of the injury, subsequent required care, lost wages and reduced quality of life.

These measures could go a long way in reducing the cost of health care, prescription medications, and medical insurance.


Flo said...

Ellie for president!!!

Jeff said...

Well said.

Steve said...

I think you've got it right. This latest mess misses the main points.
As a self employed businessman, I take absolute offense at being told I will be forced to offer medical benefits.
The real, underlying, error is that everyone is entitled to equal coverage. My comparison is that everyone has a different house or car that they earned, why not earn better health care?