On Tuesday night, like many Americans, I watched President Donald Trump’s address to Congress.
Some watch President Trump for the same reasons others watch a NASCAR race — the exciting and unpredictable moments that might be forthcoming. Many of my Washingtonian patients watched because they wanted to know how he will affect their jobs in the federal bureaucracy or in D.C. lobbying firms. As a practicing physician, I share the same concerns.
Our worsening federal deficit is essentially due to Medicare and Medicaid. Our elected leaders’ inability to explain in any detail how they might solve this problem (years in the making) and work in a bipartisan and productive way is frankly depressing.
Trump outlined five points for a plan to replace what he called “this imploding Obamacare disaster,” all of which sound great, but none of which were any surprise. The first two points — access to coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and allowing Americans to buy the plan they want, not one forced on them by the government — he promised throughout his campaign. Block grants for states for Medicaid was again, nothing new, nor was the ability to purchase health care plans across state lines.
The final point, legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs and to bring down the artificially high price of drugs immediately, aren’t necessary. We have laws in place to do this already, they just need to be enforced.
On Tuesday night I didn’t get much insight into what “better, cheaper plan” President Trump might have. And one thing actually disturbed me.
These people voted Trump into office and they aren’t happy with the lack of progress in health care reform.
One of President Trump’s special guests was Megan Crowley. At 15 months old, Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease and not expected to live more than a few years. To look for a cure, her father left his job with Big Pharma and eventually founded Novazyme Pharmaceuticals, a five person start-up that he built into a 100 person company. This company makes the orphan drug that has saved Megan’s life and treats a disease that affects about one in 40,000 to 300,000 live births and manifests itself in a variable fashion. Her presence was heart-rending and should help garner bipartisan support.
But for what, exactly?
While we heard during the campaign — promises to effectively address drug costs, we’ve seen little real action to date. Candidate Obama made similar promises and eight years later American drug costs are much worse. A few weeks ago when President Trump met with Pharmaceutical CEOs, there were no tough words, just promises of support. The result: Drug stocks spiked upward and drug prices remain unchanged or rising.
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Rowdy town hall meetings are no doubt in part paid Democrat disruption, but there is clearly a group of dissatisfied Americans whose patience is wearing thinner by the day. These people voted Trump into office and they aren’t happy with the lack of progress in health care reform. I admit I’m one of them.
When I see Megan Crowley, I see more than the above. Megan Crowley’s presence can only be a signal to Big Pharma — it’s business as usual. The American consumer will continue to pay to support worldwide drug innovation as they increasingly they can’t afford to buy drugs available today that could keep them alive and well and out of the hospital.
If you can’t pay the exorbitant costs of modern health care like Crowley or Steve Jobs, you don’t contribute more to society than you “cost” — you’re out of luck. Health care “costs” don’t need to be so inflated except to transfer wealth from the American middle class to the medical monopolies.
Perhaps my 93-year-old mother is right. Perhaps it’s time to let people live out their lives without all the medical intervention. Let people die when they get sick if they haven’t put away enough money to pay their health care bills.
Or perhaps the president, who has said little about any of the Republican plans presented so far, has something far more rational and effective yet to bring forth. “A better health care plan for all Americans,” as he said in his speech.
America is still watching, and waiting.
Dr. Ramin Oskoui, a cardiologist in the Washington, D.C., area, is CEO of Foxhall Cardiology PC and a regular contributor to LifeZette.