Democrats hope health will sustain them in tough midterms

The United States offers some of the best health care available in the world, if you can afford it.

The country has some of the best doctors, the most comprehensive hospitals and medical facilities, and some of the brightest researchers in the world.

However, health care in the US comes at a very high price. In 2020, health care spending reached $4.1 trillion or $12,530 per person. And beneficiaries must navigate their way through a tangle of insurance plans that are part of America’s bewildering copay and deductible systems.

Health care is rarely far from the news in the US, but there have been two significant developments over the last week or so.

First, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would limit out-of-pocket costs for patients who need insulin to $35 (€32) a month for most Americans.

Insulin, a life-saving drug usually taken daily, has become increasingly expensive in recent years, and there are concerns that some patients are rationing its use or stopping taking it because of the costs involved.

Remarkable as it sounds, diabetes patients today pay an average of around $375 for insulin, with some having to shell out as much as $1,000 a month

President Joe Biden, in his State of the Union address last month, said insulin costs drug companies about $10 per vial, but companies charge patients up to 30 times that amount.

As extraordinary as it sounds, today diabetes patients pay an average of around $375, with some having to shell out as much as $1,000 per month.

However, before it becomes law, the proposed new cap would have to go through the Senate, where it would need the support of 10 Republicans.

Democrats originally wanted a much more ambitious drug package that would cap price increases on all prescription drugs and for the government to use its bulk buying power to directly negotiate the cost of some products.

Other parts of a broader bill would have expanded health insurance coverage and extended insulin coverage to uninsured diabetes patients, an issue the bill passed by the House last week would not address.

republican objections

A report from Congress last December suggested that Medicare, the US government’s health insurance program for people over 65 and disabled, could have saved more than $16.7 billion between 2011 and 2017 on insulin purchases if it were would have made it possible to negotiate discounts with pharmaceutical companies.

However, some Republicans argue that allowing the government to use its force in trying to determine prices would amount to socialized medicine and would have an impact on future development of new products.

Needless to say, the biopharmaceutical industry was also unenthusiastic about the idea. She warned against “dangerous political experiments” that would “threaten patients’ access to medicines and sacrifice future medical advances.”

The second big health news event this week focused on Barack Obama returning to the White House for the first time since he handed over power to Donald Trump in January 2017.

He was there to mark a move by Joe Biden to fix an element of the healthcare law first introduced by Obama.

Obama said the passage of the Affordable Care Act represented the high point of his time in office. He said he was determined to introduce the measure even if it cost him re-election.

Even though the US health care system was broken and millions of people were uninsured, it was difficult to make changes, he said.

“Health care accounts for about a fifth of our economy; that’s trillions of dollars that are involved. So there were many different economic interests competing to maintain the status quo.

“And because most Americans had health care, some people naturally worried about losing what they had. The media was skeptical of past failures. There was a lot of misinformation, to say the least, going around. And it’s fair to say that most Republicans showed little interest in working with us to get anything done.”

growing support

In fact, the Republicans were much more than unsupportive. They tried to strike down the law and took the cases to the supreme court to have it thrown out.

Despite all the criticism, Obamacare seems to have grown among Americans. Polling suggests the scheme is now viewed favorably by around 55 percent of adults, though support is much lower among Republicans.

The growing popularity of Obamacare gives Democrats another issue on which to campaign

A record number of Americans, about 14 million, have signed up for health plans through the Act’s marketplaces by 2022. The increase appears to be due to reduced cost of insurance as a result of financial assistance being offered under Covid stimulus initiatives, further promotion of the scheme by the Biden administration, and the disruption to traditional employer-provided insurance arrangements caused by the pandemic.

Democrats face a tough election next November. The growing popularity of Obamacare gives them another issue to campaign on and warn about what Republicans might do if they regain power. That’s probably why Obama was wheeled in for the big photo opportunity at the White House this week.

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