BoomerCafé isn’t a political journal; there are plenty of other online outlets for that kind of commentary. But when there are issues that hit baby boomers particularly hard, sometimes we do have something to say. Co-founder and publisher David Henderson is more than just mystified by the healthcare system in the United States; he is exasperated, and we know he’s not alone. So today, David writes about healthcare, and invites you to go to BoomerCafé’s “comments” section and write back.
Let me begin by saying, it is my conscious desire to avoid even so much as a blush of taking sides in the forever ongoing political squabble over America’s healthcare system. But, I still have opinions. And as a lifelong professional communicator, I want to put them out there. As Fox News says, “We report, you decide.”
Probably like a lot of you, I admit to being puzzled over the state of the healthcare system in America. It’s not the quality of medical treatment but rather the interconnected web of bureaucracy between health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospital organizations, and the government. It’s like no other place on the planet, and maybe it wouldn’t matter so much if it weren’t driving the cost of medical care for patients through the roof. But it is.
I once was treated at a small town clinic in England and received first-class care. As I departed, I was surprised that no one asked me to fill out a stack of forms or provide my VISA card. The doctor told me there was no charge (which is how emergency care works there, even for visitors), but that I was welcome to contribute to the clinic’s fund to purchase some kind of new medical device. I happily made a donation.
Another friend, also an American, arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland — which is also part of the U.K. — with a serious medical condition that required urgent hospitalization and treatment. He received exceptionally good treatment. After three days, as I recall, they asked him for his name. When he was discharged, the cost was virtually nothing. Can you imagine something like that here in the U.S.?!
All of Europe has healthcare systems that are more equitable and affordable for everyone than here in the U.S.
I’m now of that age to receive Medicare. Yet, I am discovering that even Medicare benefits are being whittled back, which my doctors confirm. Services go down; treatments covered last year are not covered this year. Yet premiums only go up. But I cannot find any explanations. AARP certainly is not enlightening, probably because it is an insurance company, first and foremost.
All I know is that several doctors have told me that the Affordable Care program in the U.S. is nearly doubling their cost of doing business. There’s more paperwork, they say, and reimbursements to physicians are smaller.
Then, there’s the subject of drug costs. I have never comprehended the warnings to consumers by the big pharma companies against buying drugs made in such places as Puerto Rico and India, when many of their own drugs actually are made abroad. Makes no sense.
While in Israel a few years ago, my back was aching from so much walking. I went into a drug store and sought the counsel of the pharmacist for an effective painkiller. He reached back to a shelf and plunked down a bottle of “Swiss Relief” on the counter, saying that it’s widely used in Israel for quick pain relief, and safer than taking drugs, even ibuprofen. It’s a spray gel that works instantly for hours of pain relief. What’s more, it’s cheap and sold over-the-counter.
The magic about the spray is the active ingredient — a small-but-effective amount of diclofenac sodium, a century-old drug that has a successful history of helping to control pain and save lives, even in world wars. Heck, diclofenac was even mentioned in the PBS program “Downton Abbey” as the medicine that saved the character, Cora, during an influenza outbreak.
Diclofenac sodium is sold in America only in a weak 1% gel under the Novartis brand name of Voltaren. It requires a doctor’s prescription and costs more than $30. In my opinion, a 1% dose is about as effective as rubbing alcohol.
The painkiller I bought in Israel, however, was a dose of 4% diclofenac in a spray gel. It’s strong enough to be effective! A spray or two took away the pain of walking too much … instantly … and no side effects.
Similar other brand names with 4% or 5% diclofenac sodium solutions are sold over-the-counter at pharmacies all around the world. Prices generally range between $6 to $10. It’s tried and true, and it works as a simple rub-on solution for aches and pains, a special blessing for people suffering from arthritis. But … not in the USA.
A friend shares another story about the vast price discrepancy of drugs between the US and abroad … Zovirax cold sore cream. It costs about $10 over-the-counter in many countries of Europe. Here in America, the same tube costs $95 if you have prescription drug insurance, and if you have no insurance, the price is a whopping $725.
So, I ask you … is it just me or are other baby boomers frustrated by the healthcare system in America?