Healthcare should not be a competition

Recently a local television station ran the story of Aaron Negrete. Aaron has Tetra Amelia Syndrome, a rare disorder where people are born without limbs. Here’s a link to the story on the News10 website.

Aaron is in a contest to win a new wheelchair-accessible van to help him get around. Although this young man was born with challenges the like most of us will never face, he has persevered,  and appears to be a wonderful young man. He is an inspiration to all who know him / of him.

But, health care should not be a competition.

This contest brings to mind darker things. We are, in essence pitting one person with physical challenges against another to see whose story evokes the most sympathy. There should not be a need for this.

The top 11 pharmaceutical companies in the US made $83.9 Billion dollars in profits last year. That’s billion with a big capital “B”. In profits, not total revenue. 1

A typical wheel chair accessibility conversion costs around $20 Thousand dollars.2 That price does NOT include the price of the van itself. If you poke around the internet a bit, however, you will see that there are used vans available for about the same price, maybe a little higher.

According to the 2010 US census, there were 3.6 Million people who had lower body mobility problems that were severe enough that they needed help getting around.

Putting these various figures together, we see that the profits from the top 11 pharmaceutical companies would pay for 4.2 Million van conversions. That’s more van conversions than there are people who need them.

However, people who use these vehicles would not need them every year. If we assume (not unreasonably) that these vans can remain in use for 10 years, we see that there is a need for approximately 360 Thousand conversions in a typical year. That puts the annual cost at $7.2 Billion dollars (again, that’s billion with a  “B”).

That’s a lot of money to most people. But to the top 11 pharmaceutical companies in the US, that’s 8.6% of their annual profits (again, profits, not total revenue).

Our friends on the other side of the political spectrum are continuously calling for a reduction in the size of government. They are always telling us that private industry can do a better job than government in pretty much anything that they choose to do.

Well, here’s an opportunity for them to prove their point.

With just 10% of their profits, the top 11 pharmaceutical companies in the US could start a program to provide wheelchair accessible transportation for virtually everyone in the US who needs it, including administrative overhead.

Regardless of whether these companies are interested in starting a program such as this (doubtful), we should not be pitting Arron Negrete against Jolene Bailey (another child in this dark contest) to see who can garner the most votes.


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