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Published 3 years ago with 40 Comments
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  • a7h13f

    When I was a kid, I suffered from severe asthma. I remember my Dad came back from a business trip to Mexico with nearly a year's supply of my inhalers that he'd purchased for the equivalent of $20. The same medicine would have costs my parents hundreds of dollars at a pharmacy here, even with their insurance. Our health care system is broken.

    • KingAztek

      Whenever possible, my family get our medicine from mexico as well as some minor procedures as well. I have uncles the choose to get their dental procedures done in Mexico because it's cheaper, easier to get, and the quality is still the same. I remember being particularly sick once while on vacation visiting my family. All I had to do was go to a local clinic (free of charge), get diagnosed, and pick up my prescription (also free of charge - you would pay a low price for the medicine w/out prescription). Why we can't do this in the United States completely baffles me

      • hitthee

        because the US is a corporate entity of course. Corporations were declared persons so they have rights. They have more money so their right to be unburdened by regulation is worth more than your life to be blunt.

      • JAIRUZ17

        Same with my family. Surgery? Go to Mexico. Tooth ache? Go to Mexico. I have even heard of certain stories of people who go to India for health care and come back spending less than what they would have staying in the United States for health care. It's ridiculous.

    • junioreconomist

      I just started my career in Health Econ. I start working in drug pricing next month. I'll get back to you when I have the answers.

  • voicesinmyhead

    The American healthcare system scares the hell out of me. There are plenty of articles that show that the US spends at least twice as much on healthcare than just about any other country in the world, yet so many Americans remain sick and dying from easily treatable conditions using very inexpensive medication.

    • Pockets69

      This, I live in Portugal, the healthcare here isn't the best that it could be, but when it is compared to the US it is like comparing a first with a third world country, and that's saying something when you are talking about Portugal, kinda reminds me of the drug policy of each country that was talked a few months ago.

    • FurtWigglepants

      It's actually top notch service with some of the best treatment available in the world. However it's still over priced...

      • spaceghoti

        Right up there with "it's really good work, if you can get it." It doesn't do us much good to be the best treatment in the world if we can't have it.

        • FurtWigglepants

          Everyone can get it here, it's just you'll be forced into bankruptcy for it.

  • fanficmistress

    Everytime I read an article like this I just question more and more why we do not have nationalized healthcare in this country.

    • spammusbi

      I lived in Germany for 3 years. They have socialized healthcare and it's amazing. I don't see how people in the US are so against it. Of course I know not everyone is, but still. I would much rather pay taxes towards something that will keep me alive and I don't have to worry about huge medical bills

      • fanficmistress

        I agree it would be nice to not have to worry about how I'm going to pay for life saving treatment.

  • Shimmer

    I think a big part of the problem is that the manufacturer's retail price for the inhaler is artificially high, because they know that many insurance companies will cover the cost, and their end-user patients will not care about (or even see) the actual price. This disconnect between producer and consumer creates a distorted market for people whose prescriptions are not fully covered by insurance.

    It would also be useful, of course, to understand exactly why this particular insurance plan did not cover more of the retail cost of the inhaler. Perhaps the insurance company did not explain their decision in this case, but I think it would have improved the article to dig into this question more.

  • kxh

    Pharmaceutical companies gaming the patent protection system.

  • Autumnal (edited 3 years ago)

    Even with great insurance, we pay like 70 bucks an inhaler for my wife. It's inhuman and cruel to hike up prices for medicine needed to live.

    • curbstickle

      Its also interesting that you will then get an extra bill from the doctor for what had not been paid by insurance, which they will then harass you to pay. Which they can't do, and violates their agreement with the insurance company, but happens anyway.

      I even had one doctor's office tell me that the documented (printed) price for the procedure per their agreement with the insurance company didn't matter.

      Everything about this system is damaged.

    • pseudopsynic

      I'm right there with you, man. And we've had to send several "Prior Authorization Forms" for the same damn inhaler. We basically pay insurance to hassle us...

    • mathematical

      Yep. My parents live close to the Mexico border. I just have them pick up a 3-pack of inhalers (for like $10) every time they go. The last inhaler I bought in the US had an insurance co-pay of $40, and I have decent insurance.

  • kevino025

    Very interesting. I never even thought about buying 'legal' drugs on the deep web. I cant even begin to imagine what else might be there.

  • darkharlequin

    Yup. we live in San Diego, so when my wife needs a new inhaler we drive down to mexico.

  • DrunkOldMan

    I feel the more Obamacare is enacted this scene will play out more and more, people barely making it but now forced to buy insurance will be paying more out of pocket for services and items that would of been 50 times cheaper out of pocket with no insurance at all. Very sad!!!

    • idlethreat

      I like to think (and perhaps i'm just bizarrely optimistic here) that the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) did break the healthcare system in a very specific way. Sort of like notching a tree, just to make sure that it will fall in the direction that you want it to. The provisions set will (eventually) help slide the US into a Single Payer healthcare system.

      The man had a lot of extremely smart people put this thing together. Provisions set today will reverberate across the healthcare system for quite a while. Some provisions (like forcing insurance companies to pay out 80% of their income by law) have been a long time coming.

      I don't know if we'll be around to see Single Payer in the States. I hope we do and celebrate the death to horror stories like this one.

  • NerfYoda

    I eventually said screw it and starting getting my nebules and inhalers off a decent and reputable site in Vanuatu. Hell with paying that much for meds.

  • SoCalWingFan

    I'd like to know about the specifics here; with my insurance I feel like my rescue inhaler isn't more than $10-$15. I've been on one of the maintenance inhalers before, although not long term (I eventually grew out of my asthma for the most part), and I don't recall the price ever being that high. I'm not questioning the veracity of the article, but something seems off here.

  • milkboy

    $300 for an inhaler? That is just crazy. My son also has two inhalers. As we are in the UK, we pay nothing for them (well not counting taxes we pay). But hey we can do that, as we kill all the old people who get ill ;)


    Wow, this hits close to home. I remember when my daughters were diagnosed w/ asthma. They were prescribed albuterol for rescue type needs and pulmacourt(steroid) for daily dosing (both nebulized). I was out of work at the time, we were declined medicaid (who knows why), and had no other insurance hopes (have you priced unsubsidized insurance?!). The uninsured price of the albuterol is ~$130/ month and the pulmacourt is ~$350... both for generic. Fortunately, the pharmacist at our local Walgreen's informed us that, for $35/yr, they have a family prescription discount card... it discounted the albuterol to ~$30/ month and the pulmacourt to ~$150/ month. We still couldn't afford to dose the pulmacourt the way we were supposed to, but it did allow us to give our girls the medicine they needed to the point that they were able to live AND stay out of the hospital.

    Fast forward 3 years, I now have a pretty decent job (and my wife has been employed the entire time), but I still can't afford to insure my family from my workplace, AND, even if I could, the copays and deductibles are unrealistic. Fortunately, we have now qualified for medicaid (the irony that we make ~$30k more per year than when we were denied while in desperate need is great) for the kids, and our state offers really good insurance that is priced at ~1% of your monthly income per covered adult for qualifying homes.

    I haven't ever had to resort to illegal means to obtain medicine for my family.... but healthcare in this country is severely broken. And this article proves my point that the ACA (Obamacare) is NOT the right answer. We are now required to carry insurance coverage to prevent tax time penalties, but, often, the coverage that we are able to afford still leaves requires care unaffordable..... moreso because money that could have been paid towards that care is now paid towards insurance premiums. I don't claim to know what the answer is. I've been told previously that if I don't have a better answer that I should keep my opinion to myself. Here's the thing: The "check engine" light in my vehicle tells me that there's something wrong. I usually still need to defer to someone else to repair my vehicle, but I know that SOMETHING is wrong. Using that analogy, I feel confident in stating that healthcare in this country is broken.... I still need someone else to present the solution.

  • Vera

    On June 3 I went to refill a prescription that normally cost $27. I had just missed the May 31 deadline that companies had to hike the prices (Obama put a price cap on the pharma companies as of May 31st but did not put a PERCENTAGE of increase cap on the price cap...) So my new total for my stomach medicine was changed from $27 to $107.

    Thanks Obama..... (sarcasm)

  • jsavage58

    The prices americans pay for drugs subsidize the cheaper costs for the rest of the world... Our dollars offset the costs for the poor nations that all take the same meds. If we paid the same as other countries, the drug companies couldn't survive.

    • hereorthere

      I disagree. They charge US citizens more because they can, but with other countries they are forced to negotiate the price ), but even then they aren't going to sell their products at a loss and nobody expects them to. I can assure you that in Canada, for newer medications the costs are still sometimes beyond what an average family can afford, presumably because even at the lower negotiated price our provincial pharmacare receive, the drug companies need to charge a higher price due to actual costs.

    • RoMS

      This does not make any sense. Where would be the economic logic behind your "conspiracy" theory.

      Companies maximize the utility they can get out of a situation. Because the US healthcare market is tipped towards companies, due to liberalism and a lack of nationalized or sponsored insurance system, the pharma oligopoly enjoys an unchallenged market where the lack of competition and alternatives for customers gives them the opportunity to hike prices.

      The fact that other countries enjoy much lower prices has nothing to do with that.

      It is a plot of the damn Swiss perhaps? Hell two of the three biggest pharma companies in the world are swiss! That must be them! Right?

  • theykilledkenni

    I'm so glad that the company that makes my medication has a copayment card. I pay $5 a month instead of $120. Although soon it'll be $10 a month because my doctor is doubling my dose.

    I really hope that this biologic continues to work. It's the cheapest one out there....

  • gabe2068

    America sees itself as a business, not a country.

  • theoddowl (edited 3 years ago)

    In a much, much tamer personal example; I have to buy my contacts from Europe because they don't require a prescription like retailers in the US and I can't afford to go to the ophthalmologist.

  • KempfCreative

    Is the cost of healthcare in the US ridiculous? Yes. However, the main reason why costs are so high is due to 2 reasons:

    1: Research and development happens here more so than other countries. That is very expensive and the US population pays for this. 2: We have doctors and hospitals that will treat patients that would be a lost cause in other countries. If you are seriously ill, America is the place where you will have the best chance of getting better. While this might not be the best cost to benefit ratio, many people from other countries travel here when they have no other options. To these people, the exorbitant cost of healthcare was worth it.

    Don't get me wrong, we could cut costs by reducing price gouging and profits at the corporate level, but there are reasons why medicine and care cost so much in the U.S.

    • spaceghoti

      I think you're shortchanging the amount of medical research that happens in Europe and Asia, and very successfully. Cuba, which is not an economic powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination, has had some remarkable innovations in medicine and biotech.

      Yes, the issues you cite are some of the justifications for the high cost of medicine in the US but that's not the whole story by any stretch of the imagination. The one thing the US does differently from every other industrialized nation is that it doesn't allow the government to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies or health care providers. We need someone with clout to negotiate on our behalf, and insurance companies aren't doing it. Rather, they're using that lack of oversight to boost their own profits in collusion with the health care industry. This is a problem that the Affordable Care Act barely begins to address, and what little it does has US conservatives crying foul.

  • Lunasea

    Totally new to this but how can I get inhalers for my husband without a prescription on the web. Call me clueless.

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