My cold wasn’t getting any better after two weeks so I went to the doctor. The receptionist asked for my insurance card. This is a “silver” Obamacare policy that costs $8,460 per year. I noticed that the co-pays are now higher than what the corresponding services typically cost not that long ago (and therefore higher than the market price today in a lot of rich countries). A generic prescription is $20; branded drugs will be $60 or $90 if they are covered at all. An office visit is $30 or $50. A few stitches at the “ER”? $700 co-pay.
My appointment was right after the lunch break so I was seen almost as fast as a dog would be seen at a vet. A sinus infection was diagnosed. “I used to prescribe Erythromycin for this,” the doctor said, “and it was a couple of pennies a pill. Now it is $200 for a course so I’m going to give you a Z-pack.” How was it possible for a generic to cost $200? “I think the generic manufacturer was acquired.” (Medscape says that “For example, erythromycin in 500-mg tablets had three increases of more than 100%. Its price increased from 24 cents per tablet in 2010 to $8.96 per tablet in 2015.” while Wikipedia gives the wholesale price at 3-6 cents in countries not subject to U.S. government regulation.)
[Separately, I posted this story on Facebook and a passionate Hillary Clinton supporter living in the Bay Area responded with
I know it’s crazy. Just this week I slightly scratched my back bumper on my car, but because my car insurance has a $500 deductible, I had to pay the whole thing myself. And to think I pay $1700/year in car insurance for me and my wife… clearly I’m losing money on this deal!
(or, you know, that’s how insurance works.)
Is the analogy apt? I haven’t had any health problems in the last two years nor changed my plan or vendor yet the cost of insurance has doubled while the emergency room deductible went from $100 to $700. I haven’t seen car, home, or aircraft insurance rates rise. In fact, my Obamacare policy now costs about the same as what a private owner would pay for insurance on a $2 million turbine-powered aircraft in which as many as 11 people might be killed if the single non-professional pilot should make a mistake. Thus it now costs as much to insure someone against the hazard of falling into the hands of the world’s least efficient medical system as it does to insure 11 people against the hazard of flying through the air at 300+ mph.]