Most Americans would probably agree that our healthcare system is broken. Where we differ on are the causes and solutions. So how do we come to some sort of solution? The first step is to take an honest look at how our system works. Get rid of the hype, politics, and preconceived notions. Instead, look at exactly what happens from the point a person realizes he or she is sick until the point at which treatment is complete.
Our broken system is impacting public health in lots of different ways. Take regenerative medicine for example. This is a field of medicine that Utah-based Apex Biologix says offers tremendous potential for breakthrough treatments for a variety of diseases.
You are at least familiar with regenerative medicine if you’ve read any one of the endless stream of news articles criticizing so-called ‘unproven’ and ‘unregulated’ stem cell procedures. Dig deeply into the stem cell question and you will discover two systemic problems in our healthcare system.
The first of the two systemic issues is onerous regulation. Where countries throughout Europe and Latin America are actually looking for ways to make stem cell therapy more widely available, we are trying to restrict it. We are so obsessed over the FDA that we do not want doctors to do anything without getting approval.
One of the big criticisms of stem cell therapy for conditions like osteoarthritis is that the therapy is unproven in the FDA’s eyes. Gaining FDA approval requires years of study and tens of millions of dollars. Clinics have neither the time nor the money to attempt to prove the efficacy of stem cell therapy. They can already offer it legally, as long as they follow current FDA rules, so they do so. They allow the anecdotal evidence to speak for itself.
The result of this regulatory nonsense is limited FDA approval that leads people to travel overseas as medical tourists. They travel to places where they can get treatments not available here in the States.
The second systemic problem is cost. Just like there are people traveling overseas to get stem cell procedures they cannot get here, others travel simply because procedures approved in the U.S. are cheaper elsewhere. By the way, medication is often cheaper in other countries too. There are people who take annual trips overseas just to stock up on their prescriptions.
Why do costs continue rising? You might be tempted to lay the blame at the feet of corporate greed. That may have something to do with it, but it doesn’t end with pharmaceutical companies and healthcare facilities. The fact is that our health insurance system creates constant price increases by its very nature.
If you have health insurance, you probably don’t know how much your treatments cost. You never see the bill. All you know is your co-pay. What you do not know is how much your insurance company is being charged. As such, those providing treatment can essentially charge whatever they want.
Insurance companies respond by limiting reimbursement rates. They pay as little as they can. In response, providers jack up their prices. And why not? A 70% reimbursement on $1,000 is larger than a 70% reimbursement on $750.
We have a system of onerous regulations and high prices that harms patients. It is preventing people who need access to regenerative medicine from actually getting that access. It’s not good, and it needs to change sooner rather than later. It is unconscionable that people have to travel overseas to receive regenerative medicine procedures that are either unavailable here or too expensive to afford.