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Great to hear that DJ Tice is back on track and doing well (“How I Survived Summer Vacation,” Opinion Exchange, Aug. 7). He is right, we are lucky to have quality care in this country. Of course, we really pay for it too.
Beyond the debate about whether ultra-wealthy pharmaceutical companies have to negotiate drug prices and whether that hurts innovation, there’s the bigger question of the costs to the entire healthcare industry, including pharmaceuticals. It accounts for about 20% and continues to grow, twice the size of the second most expensive country. Apparently we have decided to pay any price to cure all the diseases that can afflict humans. how much is enough? Is $50,000, or $100,000, or $1,000,000 a year for medicines and treatments for one person’s specific illness or problem too much? What will you do? If you do nothing, what will you give up in your quest for immortality? Education, roads, fire protection — retirement?
What should I do? I don’t know, these are hard questions with no easy answers. You have to ask before everything falls apart.
In the meantime, welcome back DJ!
D. Roger Pederson, Minneapolis
I am a retired medical analyst.
“There’s no better place in the world when you’re really sick,” Thys claims. That’s a bizarre claim considering CEOWORLD magazine’s Healthcare Index ranks US healthcare 30th. Europe. Perhaps Tice doesn’t travel much.
I recently returned from a family trip in Croatia (#42 according to the magazine). There I fell down some stairs, tore the ligament that attaches the quadriceps to the patella, and was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery (out of network, of course).
Speaking from firsthand experience, Croatia’s healthcare (only 42nd best after all) is truly barbaric. I was admitted to a hospital room with 5 other men (not educated enough to speak English) and after surgery they wrapped my knee in a plaster cast (when I got home , entertained the TRIA Orthopedic staff). .
But nothing speaks more to the primitive nature of Croatian healthcare than the bills my Medicare Advantage Plan doesn’t cover. Hospitalization: about $1,000.
John K. Trepp, Minneapolis
Readers were pleased with Tice’s positive reports of heart disease in the August 7 commentary. Admittedly, that research is important, but Congress’ efforts to keep its prices down don’t have to reduce research. I have. An online article from Bankrate, a guide to investing in big pharma, tells the story. His three industry leaders have achieved operating margins in excess of his 20% over the past five years. Pharmaceutical companies typically make operating profits close to 25 cents for every dollar of revenue. Compare that to about 12 cents across the market. Unfortunately, from 2009 to 2018, the average net price of a Medicare Part D branded drug went from $149 to $353.
Jim Bartos, Maple Grove
If you can’t afford it, any medicine is useless!
Brian Layer, Becker, Ming.
The United States is the only developed country where drug prices are not controlled at the national level. We pay far more for drugs than Canadians, Europeans and South Americans. The reason cited is that paying the same amount for medicines as the world does would cut pharmaceutical companies’ profits and cut back on research and development. This claim is supported by extensive lobbying in Washington.
The idea that reduced profits lead to reduced R&D is nonsensical. Pharmaceutical companies are in business to make money, and they happen to develop useful medicines. They derive most of their profits from expensive patented drugs. Because there is no competition for patented drugs, companies can pretty much set prices in the US. Patents have expiration dates. Profits drop sharply when a drug’s patent expires. Pharmaceutical companies rely on a constant supply of new drugs so that they can obtain new patents. The supply of new drugs comes from their research and development. R&D is the lifeblood of these companies, and cutting R&D cuts a big revenue stream. It makes no business sense for these companies to cut drug development.
Pharmaceutical companies are profitable. American pharmaceutical companies have spent more money on stock dividends and buybacks than on R&D over the past few years. Their executives are well paid and have multi-billion dollar advertising budgets. Controlling drug prices in the United States as they are in the rest of the world will help make the pharmaceutical industry a more equitable foundation for all.
Martin Ullberg, Edina
The author is a former doctor.
That sounds pretty unforgiving. Within hours of the primaries ending, the media is already filled with ads trying to portray their surviving rivals in the darkest light. and is still a reliable form of mass entertainment in the weeks when other sports are off-season. It urges sects to recognize their limitations and cooperate, but only those who expect an imminent breakout of world peace count on this, right? Indeed, voting is the ultimate weapon of democracy. There will be, but what will happen until the next election? And what if the legitimacy of the election itself is called into question? Extreme commentary shifts to the possibility of another ‘civil war’.
A 32-second commercial, even with a “footnote,” doesn’t begin to address what’s on our minds. In any case, it’s not the politicians who need to talk more. it’s us. Last week, at the Washington County Fairgrounds, I staffed the booth of the Braver Angels, a national organization whose goal is to reduce political polarization. We were simply there to start a conversation, not to change our minds or dampen partisan enthusiasm. Surprisingly, the people shrugged their shoulders. Maybe he was just exhausted or depressed. Some stop and start talking to express their dissatisfaction with the image the media has created and the serious concerns they have overlooked. I replied that it was difficult to hear. Having political discussions with colleagues, friends, and even family members can be painful.
But citizens need to address the issue, and that process begins with understanding exactly what the “other side” is saying. Interested in practicing the skills necessary for this essential listening If so, you can find more information at BraverAngels.org.
A quote attributed to Ben Franklin is often circulated in Congress and on Twitter: When asked what form of government emerged from the Constituent Assembly, he probably replied, “You keep it If you can, it’s a republic,’ he replied. I prefer what his fellow Braver Angels members say. For anyone interested in having a functioning future, it is “hard, possible, necessary” to talk about divisive topics.
John Ramsbottom, Minneapolis