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Your Money or Your Life: America’s need for free healthcare – no taxes required.
By Dan Behrman
You probably don’t have to be told that money and power control our healthcare industry. We are always concerned about whether we can afford healthcare, how to fund it, and who should pay for it. The two major political parties shoot back and forth at each other about how one side’s ideas are better than the other’s, but partisan arguments will not save the day. We are cornered.
We have to ask ourselves how we got to this point in the first place. How did medical costs get so expensive and complicated? How can medicines be produced for so little, yet sold for so much? Why are those same medicines available in other countries for a fraction of the cost?
To solve the US healthcare problem, we must address the special interest stranglehold that our government and the big industry players have used to take advantage of the American people for too long. In 2018, the pharmaceutical/health care industry spent more money lobbying (buying politicians) than any other industry. Our politicians have sold us out, and our government now allows industry profiteers to implement laws which take advantage of the sick. Insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical companies ruined our ability to afford the care we need. They raise prices for preexisting conditions, literally hurting the people they are meant to protect. They gauge the sick to increase profits. Because they know we have no choice, companies can hold our lives in their hands and tell us to “Pay or die.”
Republicans and Democrats both push solutions to these problems, but both sides over-complicate the issue with hefty bills drafted by industry insiders and special interests. Yes, even Bernie Sanders. Neither side offers a real solution to the crisis.
The regulations affect us all by restricting our options and inflating the prices in three important markets: doctors, medicine, and insurance. In this article, I’ll examine the precise problem that is the largest factor preventing us from getting the healthcare we need. I’ll show that to fix the US healthcare problem we need to restore the American people’s right to choose how to take care of themselves. We need to allow innovation to thrive in a medical marketplace that encourages competition and produces better care for more people at a fraction of the cost.
If you’re like most people, you believe that more regulations would solve the problem, but this comes from a misunderstanding of what regulations are. An industry insider, Dr. Kyle Varner says “People think regulation is filling out the right forms, doing the right processes, and not ripping people off, but it’s not. It’s making people who want to help have to jump through hoops to keep out competition so the industry can keep prices up. This creates an artificial price and profit inflation. One of the best things we could do is to get rid of regulations, but people are afraid.”
In her book ‘Death by Regulation’, Dr. Mary Ruwart agrees with Dr. Varner: “Regulations created by the government prevent access to new, life-saving medications, and caused the prices of drugs to soar without improving safety or effectiveness.” She calculates that the net effect of the FDA’s regulations alone is a loss of 5 years from your life.
Right now, most regulations primarily protect high prices. They make the cost of jumping the regulatory hurdles so high, preventing competition, so that when someone wants to overcharge you, you have nowhere else to go. Each year there are thousands of newly qualified doctors, researchers, and investors trying to provide us with the best care, but the regulations don’t allow them to. Rather than having free competition and choice, these new innovations, medicines, and discoveries that could dramatically improve our quality of life and reduce our cost of living remain illegal. For many diseases, we are stuck with long term treatments instead of easy cures, simply because the profit on a one-time cure does not justify the regulatory cost, leaving investors only willing to invest in expensive, long term treatments.
Health care is a stark contrast from the tech industry, which is largely unrestricted by the government. We have seen amazing leaps forward in technology and innovation. There is no reason that the healthcare industry could not have done the same without restrictive government policies, especially considering that it’s largely another form of technology. We are told that these regulations are for our own protection, but that leaves us with many unanswered questions. Why is it illegal to import medication from other countries that have been approved by their governments for sale? Why are we denied access to new innovations that haven’t been approved by the government, if we are already desperately ill? We have private laboratories that are able to test and certify the contents of our food, so why isn’t this cost-saving practice available in the healthcare industry? The truth is simple. Our politicians are protecting their cronies, not we the people.
To prove this point further, I’ve gone into detail on three subjects: Insurance, Medicine, and Doctors.
While ‘Medicare for all’ might provide health insurance for all individuals, it doesn’t actually fix the problem. Rather than addressing the outrageously high prices, it simply asks more people to help pay for it. On the surface, it sounds less expensive. More people sharing in the cost will absolutely mean that each person will pay less, but it also means that healthy people who weren’t paying at all will also be paying. The underlying problem remains, limited competition, limited options, and stagnant innovation result in big healthcare reaping unjust profits.
Another important consideration is that limited choices in insurance put the leverage in the hands of large insurance companies, and leave the consumer with few options. Imagine if your employer picked your car insurance provider. If you wanted to switch to another provider, you’d have to quit your job and find a new one. Or if your company decided to make the switch, you’d have to find a new job just to stay with the provider you liked.
Employers often include healthcare as a benefit instead because of a tax incentive. They are able to buy it for you with your pretax money, but you aren’t able to buy it with pretax money on your own. Many people think that this is a gift from their employer, but your employer considers this as part of your total compensation. If they weren’t paying for your healthcare, that would be money in your pocket, but you did want it you’d be paying for the same service after your money has been taxed. Again, the government is meddling with your decision-making ability.
Many professionals and patients agree that the government does more harm than good. Dr. Gil Robinson of San Antonio is a retired doctor. Today he knows more about the healthcare industry from the customer’s perspective. He qualifies for Medicare, but outright rejects it and prefers to pay cash. He recently went to get an MRI to check on a previous series of back surgeries. The hospital that provided the service said their fee would be $450 if he paid cash upfront. If he wanted to use Medicare, he would first need to get a doctor’s prescription which might include some deductible. Then he would have to qualify for Medicare to cover the expense, which would also include some deductible. The problem is, there is no way for him to know the exact cost of these deductibles is until after the prescription visit and MRI scan were complete. This means he would have to use more medical resources to get the same thing done, which all costs more and makes the lines longer for everyone else, which also contributes to higher prices.
It’s important to understand that the purpose of insurance is to help in catastrophic circumstances. It is literally gambling, and insurance companies base their entire business model off of risk evaluation. It should be used to cover things like accidental injuries, or unpredictable major health issues. But healthcare is an everyday thing. We all should see doctors regularly to make sure we are in good health. We can look at car insurance as an example. You don’t get car insurance to cover the cost of oil changes, but you do get it to cover the cost of getting in a wreck. If you want to save money on the cost of oil changes, which will absolutely extend the life of your car, you might enroll in a loyalty program. If you change your oil at the same place every time will get you a discount.
Doctors are realizing the difference in the needs of treating unexpected catastrophes and ongoing care. Many of these doctors are starting to operate cash-only clinics, where they do not accept insurance at all. Instead, you pay them a low monthly fee and you can visit them as often as you like. Ultimately, this costs less than your insurance coverage. Many doctors prefer this model because there is less paperwork, pressure, and drama from the insurance companies. Ultimately the cost is much lower for patients to see their doctors.
Dr. Kyle Varner is a licensed doctor who travels around the world providing healthcare wherever it’s needed. Most recently, he has been helping people Venezuela, sometimes from the bordering nation of Colombia.
Dr. Varner points out many flaws with the system. As someone who routinely travels around the world, he recognizes that most Americans have a skewed perspective. “If you don’t travel, you don’t know what real private healthcare looks like. In America, what we really have is a system of cartels. People feel that they can’t take care of themselves, and it’s government that has made it so.”
While on his way to Venezuela to provide healthcare to those in need, he picked up some insulin in Colombia for only $25 that would have cost $100 in the US. It’s not that this is an inferior quality, and most Colombians don’t have an issue getting their insulin. So why the price difference?
Insulin costs between $2.28 and $3.42 to manufacture. That means in Colombia they are selling it for 1000% profit, and it’s still 75% less than it costs in the US. There is only one key difference. In the US, there are only 3 manufacturers who can sell their insulin, but worldwide there are 40 different manufacturers in 17 countries, and most of them are easily able to export to Colombia. Exporting to the US or starting a new manufacturing operation in the US would cost over $100 million. That’s not the cost of research, development or marketing. That’s simply the cost of government red tape.
Some believe that the reason medications are less expensive in other countries is that the government subsidizes them. But that’s not it at all. There are government-run clinics and pharmacies that are highly subsidized, but the private market operates relatively free from any government interference. That means that buying these medications from a private pharmacy is not subsidized. In the US, everything seems private, but the government, insurance companies, and all of the bureaucratic processes keep us from knowing the true price of our medication and our healthcare.
Dr Varner says “We need to allow the importation of medication”. President Trump is in talks to allow the import of some medications, but only from countries like Canada. Dr. Varner says “Trump’s plan is simply reimportation. Drugs that were exported to Canada then will just be brought back.”
Dr. Varner recently purchased Rivaroxaban for his mom. In the US, it’s $400 USD for a 1 month’s supply. In Turkey, the same drug by the same manufacturer is $300 for a three month supply – that’s 75% less! This wouldn’t be fixed by Trump’s import plan, which only allowed a very limited amount of products to be imported. The public is in favor of this policy, but they don’t realize that it’s still very limited. A free market would mean being able to import from anywhere, and save Americans billions every year.
Companies set a different price in each market, knowing only their company can make Rivaroxaban for a couple more years because of their patent. They sell it at a different price point in every country based on what those people can afford. They can charge higher prices in the US because of insurance companies with deep pockets, but they could not sell it at US prices in Turkey or Mexico because nobody could afford it and they wouldn’t make a profit. To be able to keep these prices high in wealthier countries and prevent arbitrage, they lobby the government to make policies that prohibit people from importing that same drug at a lower cost from less affluent countries. This is their way of using government to extract the maximum price in each market, but it still ends up hurting those with little money who live in wealthy countries and are forced to pay the higher prices.
Dr Varner explains “They say we are subsidizing poor countries with the profits they reap in the US, but they are still making a profit in poor countries so that’s not true. That’s why they opened a plant in turkey. They aren’t selling overflow, at a loss, they are creating more and making more profit. These laws make it easy to export downwards, but not upwards. You can export from US to Mexico because they are happy if you paid the higher price. But they don’t want you to import from Mexico or Turkey to the US because they want Americans to pay the higher price.”
Dr. Varner also sees a lot of the same price manipulation in the practitioner market. “I make so much as a doctor because my salary is artificially high. The government has limited the number of doctors available. It’s not that there’s a shortage of people with the aptitude to do what I do. But I elbowed my way into one of the limited number of government-approved training slots.” He goes on to describe how the government reduces the number of residencies, which is a requirement to become a doctor. “Requirements for residency programs are so high they require government funding. In 1997, the government capped funding for the number of residencies, effectively capping the number of medical licenses that could be issued. That’s why doctors are charging through the roof.”
This year, he took his mother to a specialist, one of two in the entire city. He had to wait 6 months just to get an appointment and an hour in the lobby. “I couldn’t just take her to someone else because there was nowhere else to go. This extremely limited supply means they can charge as much as they want. The effect of state laws and quasi govt organizations is a shortage that benefits doctors like me tremendously and hurts everyone else.”
Dr. Varner recently launched a website DrVarner.com which has video courses for Americans to opt-out of the government-controlled third party system and take back complete control of your own healthcare. He includes common sense ways to keep yourself healthy, how to acquire low-cost medication, medical tourism and much more. He has a free downloadable prescription savings guide available on his website.
Cataracts surgery mostly procedural costs, and in the US averages over $4,000 per eye. A good friend and expat who is living in Mexico recently had one eye done in California, and the other eye done in Mexico. Both eyes were repaired with equal quality. With the exception of the $500 deductible, it was paid for by his $2,000 per month insurance, so the true cost is unknown. However, he did have to wait several weeks for each in a series of appointments, and was forced to sit through classes on what was going to happen. This didn’t affect his surgery, but his doctor certainly billed the insurance company for it.
In contrast, he walked into an office in Mexico, scheduled an appointment, and two days and $1,250 later his eye was done. Both procedures in California and Mexico took about 15 minutes. The quality is the same in both of his eyes, but the cost was much lower. The reviews and ratings online and referrals gave him better information on the Mexican Doctor than what his insurance referral could tell him about his American doctor.
This proves once again that with more doctors and less regulations, lower prices mean that even people without insurance can afford advanced and complicated procedures. Of course this relates back to insurance, where ultimately the price of the insurance plan is based on the amount that the insurance companies will have to pay for doctors and medication. I priced a few very decent healthcare plans for myself in Mexico which came in at under $200 per month, far less than what I would pay for similar coverage in the US.
All of these problems can be fixed
As a candidate for president, my platform includes Free(v) Healthcare – that’s free as in freedom. This platform is like none other, is endorsed by doctors and pharmaceutical researchers, and is not endorsed by any special interest or big pharma corporation – nor will it ever be.
A free country deserves free healthcare. Healthcare is a human right and we need to fix the system. If we are sick, we have the right to decide how to treat that illness. The government should not limit our options in any way. If they truly care about our safety, they should be limited to making recommendations, not outright banning other options. The government should not have the right to deny us access to medical innovations. It’s time to end the limitations on access to good health care, break up big the big healthcare monopolies, and give us all back the right to choose to be healthy.
You can learn more about this healthcare plan at https://behrman2020.com/healthcare
Dan Behrman is a Libertarian candidate for President of the United States.
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