- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2001

A company that distributes prescription drugs has determined that 50 percent of drug expenditures can be traced to 5 percent of its members. This is not sitting well with the drug-dispensing company. Don't these sick people realize that they are driving up the cost of health care? The sick are considered high-cost if they are responsible for a minimum of $174 a month. I find this hard to believe, because one prescription for a number of frequently prescribed drugs can reach that amount.

Most of the high-cost patients have serious illnesses such as cancer or heart disease. What is good for the pharmaceutical companies is not necessarily good for the HMOs and the drug-dispensing organizations. However, this is not the case with HMOs and insurance companies who must pay for the drugs. Shouldn't the price of a drug go down as the demand increases? Isn't this the way most businesses operate? Supply and demand determine price. The more sick people we have the better, right?

I suspect that someday there will be a fine for dying, other than the inheritance tax. Government seems to get upset when people fall ill and linger on. We have air bags in our vehicles, and safety belts and helmets for a variety of two- and four-wheel means of transportation. OSHA monitors industry to make sure we don't die accidentally. Government wants to keep us alive as long as possible, but once we get seriously ill, it refers to us as high-cost patients. We are no longer contributors to society.

Thanks to modern medicine, we are living to a ripe old age, and as a result, we can pay taxes for almost 15 years longer than our forefathers. However, when we fall ill, we become a drain on the system and use up Medicare and Medicaid dollars. Strangely enough, while we hear on one side that the Social Security system is falling apart because of Medicare and Medicaid, on the other side politicians want to expand the programs to cover prescription drugs. We are led to believe that government is giving us this added protection. Government does not give until it takes away.

One company wants to talk to doctors about therapeutic substitution. Isn't that wonderful? Apparently, the pill providers feel the doctor doesn't know best. Our government is getting deeper and deeper into our health care system with a goal of providing every citizen with the cheapest care money can buy. I don't want a cheap pill, a cheap doctor or a cheap hospital bed. We are looking at a "tourist class" health care system.

When I see the words "high-cost patient," I have to wonder about how sincere my elected officials are when it comes to providing for my well-being. Apparently, there are not enough quick deaths to satisfy our health care people. Perhaps they should stop using the word "care," and we would have a better understanding of what they are up to. If government truly wants to improve our health care system, they might start by removing themselves from it.

Dick Boland is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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