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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/6/19

How Do We Measure the Ethics of Healthcare for Profit?

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Taken to the current American extreme, healthcare for profit destroys lives. In 2016, 27.3 million Americans were uninsured. Most uninsured were 18-64 years old , and many of them were employed (or underemployed) at full-time or part-time jobs. Millions of other americans were underinsured. People of color were also disproportionately uninsured.

Healthcare spending is growing at almost 4% per year. The national healthcare cost per person comes out to $10,379 per year, which equals 17.9% of most household budgets. Meanwhile, the cost of living is going up and wages are not increasing to compensate. Purchasing power is stagnant despite a low unemployment rate.

Ultimately, the cost of healthcare resources limits the quality of care and compromises medical professionals' ability to make the best decisions for the wellness of the patient.

Are Corporations to Blame?

While most mega-corporations see big profits and provide bonuses to executives instead of living wages to workers, many also fail to provide suitable benefits coverage.

Most could do more, but the truth is that the cost of healthcare has gotten so astronomical, many businesses can't afford to cover their workforce. Small businesses especially suffer, and many now run full-time job ads without the promise of health insurance. As long as these organizations have fewer than 50 full-time employees, they are permitted to do this.

Pharma for Profit

What most Americans don't know is that pharmaceutical companies and government research agencies are funded on American tax dollars. That means pharmaceutical companies take money from you, a taxpayer, and instead of giving you a return or even paying back the money, they charge you as much as possible to access the medication you helped fund.

That's like a friend borrowing $50 from you, then charging you $500 for a week's worth of food, which you need to survive. Balancing the cost and quality of care is a central component of ethics in healthcare administration. Obviously, a reasonable balance is not present.

In short, healthcare for profitmeans pharmaceutical companies and hospitals have little vested interest in wellness: They make money when you get sick or develop or chronic condition.

The Ethics of Opioids

By now, you've likely heard about the opioid crisis in America. After decades of pushing these low-cost pain medications on pain sufferers, doctors face a reckoning: addiction. Now, these patients are "drug seekers," and if you think that sounds far-fetched, just try heading into the hospital when you have legitimate pain. They generally won't provide opioids, and pharmacies are limiting prescriptions to seven days at a time(which is more than inconvenient for post-surgery patients and others with mobility issues) and prescribing drugs like Suboxone to ease opioid withdrawal.

While this epidemic kills over 40 people per day, millions of chronic pain patients who use the medication responsibly now suffer with pain medication restrictions. One in five Americans suffers from chronic pain- and many chronic pain patients feel that their needs have been ignored by the state of healthcare and recent attacks on opioids.

Entrepreneurship and the Gig Economy

The millennial stereotypes hold: The millennial is uninsured or underinsured, has amassed unaffordable amounts of student debt, and holds down two to four low-wage jobs between gig work, full-time work, side jobs, and Ubering.

Here's the thing: The oldest millennials are nearing 40 years old.

They're not buying houses. They're not having kids. They can't afford healthcare. They are focused on surviving. And for women and other individuals able to become pregnant, anti-choice laws further restrict their healthcare options in the United States.

Failing Government Response to Healthcare Crisis

Politicians have been running on improved healthcare initiatives for decades. In March of 2010, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (also known as "Obamacare"), which attempted to make healthcare affordable for all Americans.

In addition to establishing a health insurance marketplace and placing stringent requirements on insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, the ACA allowed states to expand Medicaid coverage, filling a gap for individuals who can't afford increasing marketplace premiums but previously made too much to qualify for Medicaid.

While the ACA has helped many Americans become insured, costs have gone up since its establishment - and following lawmakers and the Trump Administration have done nothing to control costs. The Affordable Care Act endured a lengthy vetting process before a majority of lawmakers would pass it, watering it down from President Obama's initially proposed legislation. You can read the full law here.

For all it has helped, the ACA was a temporary solution. A quarter of all uninsured nonelderly adults avoided seeking necessary healthcaredue to costs. The same study revealed that 45% of insured Americans also worry that they could not pay their medical bills if they got sick. Nearly a quarter of insured Americans carry medical debt they're paying off over time. In the event of an outbreak, how many simply couldn't afford to seek care?

This is a national emergency.

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Ainsley Lawrence is a writer who loves to talk about good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. She is frequently lost in a good book.
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How Do We Measure the Ethics of Healthcare for Profit?

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