I couldn’t help but count the number of clerks the last time I took my son to his orthopedist. The clinic we use has seven physicians, six nurse practitioners, and two physicians assistants–and at least three times as many receptionists, billing clerks, and other staff. When you add the number of clerks who work for the insurance company, it’s easy to see why medical costs in the United States consume a greater share of GPD than any other developed nation.
Unfortunately, under our current system, clinics need those clerks to get through the byzantine codes and regulations that stand between patients and excellent medical care. So my question to you, dear students, is this: how can Mississippi improve health care for its citizens without increasing the cost for patients?
The healthcare situation is a weird one because the solution requires both more government intervention and less government intervention. In the case of the cost of medical supplies and drugs, the government needs to intervene and stop the excessive price gouging facilitated by “Big Pharma.” Currently, the inflation of prescription drugs is increasing at five times the U.S. inflation rate according to a recent study from the University of Pittsburg. This extreme drug cost can be solved by reducing the patent time for certain drugs from 20 years to 10 years. This will allow the company that researched and developed the drug to still have a window to make a profit and allow for competing drug companies to make the drug, reducing costs. In addition to this, the government needs to loosen its regulations on doctors for them to practice. For example, the government requires that all data on a patient be recorded, from slight blood pressure fluctuations to ear inflammation. This causes doctors to spend more time logging in information on a computer than actually talking to and diagnosing a patient.
The health system is tricky because of the way it runs. If stuff costs more, they are forced to charge more to prevent bankruptcy, and if new restrictions are put it, more legal actions have to be taken to prevent a lawsuit that could also bankrupt the hospital. In a way, more legal is good, as it gives more job availability; however, it also raises costs for the typical visitor. The problem frankly is that there are too many ways hospital cost can go up and not enough ways for it to go down to combat the inflated prices. One way to save money possibility is to reuse tools. It may sound weird, but there are machines that can take a tool, completely clean it and practically make tools such as tweezers reusable. Of course, I am not suggesting reusing a scalpel, just simple small things that are used for things such as small outpatient surgeries. Additionally, I think the cost could also be reduced by picking some ideas from the hospital St. Jude. Their funding comes directly from donations and because typical hospitals don’t focus on donations because they can rely on insurance to pay them. Lastly, there is a lot of money put into research at hospitals and the costs would be cheaper if they were performed at a research hospital where funding comes directly from the government rather than the hospital in which the research is being conducted.
The only feasible way of improving health care for Mississippians without making patients pay more is to solve the doctor shortage in our state. As of now, Mississippi has the highest demand for physicians than any other state. The patient/physician average ratio in 272 physicians per 100,000 patients. Mississippi’s ratio is 186. The root of this problem has to do with a student’s favorite line, “I’m not coming back to Mississippi after graduation.” This is totally fair because even I say this sometimes. But there’s a bit more to it for those of us who want to go to medical school to become physicians. There is no problem with wanting to get an undergraduate education in another state, but I know that I can’t just complain about the issues with Mississippi without wanting to do something to solve it. If medical school remains in my future after undergrad, then I absolutely have plans to come to Mississippi to establish my career as a physician. Of course, not every person who wants to become some sort of doctor has to be one in Mississippi, but Mississippi’s future physicians should consider the positives of being physician’s in-state. We could help lower the demand for doctors while improving healthcare for Mississippians, and the cost of my trips to the doctor’s office won’t be detrimental to my parent’s bank account.
The main way I think healthcare could be improved is through incentive programs. By improving education systems. By teaching everyone some similar basic knowledge about the field they are working in, there wouldn’t be a need for futile job positions; therefore, more money could be devoted to improving the system furthermore with things that cost actual money.
I’m not sure it is possible to improve the quality of healthcare without raising the cost for the patience. Quality of work takes money, and the money has to come from somewhere. Of course there is always the proposition that taxes could be put into the healthcare system. But this would cause the taxes to be raised on everyone else, and then there are the multimillion dollar companies that pay no taxes at all so that would be useless. There needs to be something done, but it is hard to find a solution that benefits everyone involved.
The fact is that drug companies want to make as much money as possible and don’t really care about making drugs affordable for everyone. If they can make more profit by increasing prices, then they will do that. It doesn’t help that there are multiple companies trying to sell drugs, so prices will inevitably increase as both companies want to make as much profit as possible. It’s tempting for the government to regulate prices and limit the prices that companies can sell drugs for, but that would not make the companies happy. We could also try to tax a certain amount that the companies earn and give it back to the consumers as a way of decreasing the overall net price.
In my opinion, there is really no way of improving the cost of healthcare without increasing the amount of money from taxes into schools for healthcare. If we did this, then not only would it be more hurtful to us, but to our paychecks as well. Again, like everyone else is saying, the healthcare system is truly a tricky one indeed, because there is no way to improve healthcare without moving funds from one area and increasing them in another. The question is where we would be if this did happen, and where those finds would be moved to.
While I am not suggesting increased taxes for socialized healthcare, the model our privatized healthcare system follows is inherently flawed. One of the main issues involving healthcare is the extortion known as drug prices, and this is mainly due to a legal practice known as evergreening. To put it simply, evergreening is a way for drug companies to prolong their drug patents for decades at a time due to minute changes in the drugs formula. The effect of this is that other commpanies cannot compete with this companies due to the patents restricting the ability to manufacture drugs. It is ironic how the patent system is being used in such a way to violate the very thing it was made for. Drugs such as insulin are quite cheap in other countries, but yet the big pharma companies here hold all the patents and raise the prices to exorbitant amounts because there is no competition for them to compete with.
In a way, our own legal system is to blame for such issues. We always say “Capitalism is best!” but the way our laws work allow these companies to hold monopolies on critical drugs people need to live. It’s sad when corporate greed decides that money is more important than human lives, but alas they’re free to do these practices unless the government steps up and actually does its job. India, for example, is fighting back against evergreening by only allowing patents to be extended under the case of significant changes to the process, allowing competition to actually exist. When 80% of the top drugs in the US get patents extended due to evergreening, you know it is time to step up and do something about it.