As I write this, political campaigns are heating up and, as usual, the country, as it is, is in terrible shape, but help is on the way. Solutions to our problems, real or imagined, are just a vote away.
One area of criticism that you can always count on as a focal point for candidates is our health care system. They usually have an easy solution, details of which are kept secret, to be revealed when the candidate is elected. It always amazes me how those same candidates suffer severe memory loss after they are elected and we never learn the details of that super-duper plan.
As part of the posturing about our current health care dilemma, you can be sure most blame for our shortcomings will be directed in 4 areas: government inaction (read Washington), pharmaceutical company profits and misdeeds, provider costs and insurance company indifference, and profiteering.
Perhaps it would be useful to look at the record to see what these 4 perennial targets have actually done for our country and its citizens. For starters, one should consider that in 1900, life expectancy was 48.3 years; today it is in excess of 77 and rising. This has been accomplished along with a better lifestyle healthwise. How did this happen?
It is generally conceded that the number one contributor to better health has been improvements in sanitation, and that has been essentially a government function–federal, state and local. Today we have clean water, effective sewers, garbage collection and disposal, and a host of other services to make life more livable and healthy.
But when we open a tap for a drink or take a shower, how often do we think about how things were 100-plus years ago? A look at conditions in third world countries will provide the answer. In my lifetime, I can remember when the toilet, with the path in the backyard, was commonplace in many parts of the country. Government has set standards for food, water, air quality, drugs and on and on, so that we live longer and healthier. Our tax dollars at work!
Concurrently, pharmaceutical companies have devised drugs and vaccines to eliminate many of the dread human killers such as polio, diphtheria, malaria, yellow fever and many more. Other diseases can be cured by miracles in a capsule or pill. Still others, like high blood pressure and diabetes, can be easily controlled.
As to profit, in recent years I have owned stock in 3 of the top pharmaceutical companies–but sold them because of lackluster performance. If they are making excess profits, it certainly does not show up in the market value of their stock. One reason, of course, is the enormous costs of research and development required to bring a new drug to market. Other countries, where drugs may be cheaper, typically do not bear the burden of such costs.