Opinion: The inescapable tariff on life

Posted on Nov 2 2018 - 5:50am by Brandon Brown

There are many factors that affect the price of healthcare in the United States. Chiefly among these are insurers, excessive litigation, volatile prices for medical supplies, the uninsured and uncontrolled drug prices. Americans spend about $3.4 trillion per year on healthcare, more than any other nation on Earth. In fact, the average cost of healthcare has risen by over 2,000 percent since 1960. The largest component in this momentous increase is drug prices. The average American spends over $10,000 per year on healthcare and that number is expected to climb substantially yearly. Amazingly, even with all of this spending the U.S still has one of the lowest life expectancies of any other developed nation.

The initial step in solving this problem is to look at the health insurers.

First, insurance companies need to be legally required to disclose how much they pay out for every procedure.

Second, legally mandate that healthcare providers make their expenses public. This would introduce competition and allow consumers to price shop which in turn would lower prices. Shockingly, most hospitals don’t even know how much most of their procedures actually cost them either — yet another symptom of how prices are never constant in healthcare and how difficult it is for CFOs to even predict how much your stay will cost them until it’s all over.

Third, make it harder to sue healthcare providers. Current statistics have shown that physicians in high risk specialties have a 99 percent chance of being sued during their career. This amount is simply unacceptable, and laws need to change on exactly what is allowed to go to court. Litigation shouldn’t be a for-profit game, and until this changes, consumers can expect to see high prices just so physicians can afford malpractice insurance.

Next, drug costs must be regulated. Lastly, streamline the payer system and further regulate it so that health systems don’t have to spend nearly 25 percent of their budget negotiating with insurance companies. As mentioned in my last column, if everyone had health insurance these problems would not be so pervasive as there would be less people using the system that couldn’t pay into it. This in turn would reduce the complexity of the price negotiations because hospitals would be able to more easily predict prices.

The largest component in this momentous increase are drug prices. Americans pay about three times more for the same medicine than do people in Britain, for instance. In essence, the U.S. taxpayer has subsidized drug prices for the rest of the world. The U.S. should force pharmaceutical companies to lower the price so that it’s comparable with what the rest of word pays for it. If the European Union refuses and a generic medication is created to bypass the price of the drug then the U.S. should begin enacting tariffs on European goods. The U.S. is an international innovation hub for medicine and it shouldn’t be the only one to shoulder the cost for these amazing discoveries. So in short, stop letting the E.U. dictate how much Americans have to pay.

In conclusion, let the U.S. healthcare system play by the rules of a capitalist market and demand that those who benefit from American innovation also pay their fair share.

Brandon Brown is a senior psychology major from Laurel.