America has some of the most hi-tech medicine in the world, but there is also a large gap in the care available for different people. My European colleagues are under the misperception that this gap is between the very wealthy and the very poor. While it is true that being very poor makes it difficult to get a lot of things, it is often the working under-insured who have the largest gaps in quality continuous healthcare.
There are federal, state and local financial assistance programs for the extremely poor to access healthcare. What we really need is more attention for the working underinsured. Being "underinsured" ranges from self employed people with no insurance coverage to employees of small companies without good insurance plan options.
So, what can we do about this? Why does it matter?
Most of us realize that money can buy a lot of things and make life more comfortable for those with more of it, but we don't agree on what aspects of our lives should not be impacted by money. Certainly we should all realize that there are basic rights that every person deserves, irrespective of financial status. It is easy to understand that we all deserve life and liberty, but there is a lot of debate about healthcare.
Healthcare means a lot of different things - from lifesaving surgery after an accident to elective cosmetic surgery. Does every American deserve cosmetic (non-reconstructive) plastic surgery regardless of whether they are going to pay for it or not? Whenever someone can't afford their healthcare, the rest of us end up paying for it. On the flip side, if someone was in an accident and they needed surgery to save their life, it would be difficult to find somebody who would argue that they shouldn't have surgery because they can't afford it.
Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic diagnosis, a lifetime disease, and it is an expensive disease. From time missed from work, inability to work, hospitalizations, doctor's visits and medications. Your physicians have been advocating on your behalf to bring down the out of pocket costs of the disease modifying agents, but besides the 5 current FDA approved MS disease modifying agents, there are a lot of medications for symptomatic relief which can cost a lot of money.
Because of the prohibitive costs of many medications, the State of Florida recently announced a new program called for a discount drug card (www.discountdrugcard.com) for Florida residents under 60 who make three times the poverty level or for those aged above 60 with any income. While programs like this are beneficial to the residents of Florida, the actual money saved by individuals is not always that great and it is not a Federal program. Our free market allows for great innovation and prosperity, but it also means that there are things that some can afford and not others. While this may be fine when it comes to designer shoes and luxury cars, should it be the case for medications?
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Published On: December 31, 2007