Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Health care costs

     Health care costs have become so expensive. One area that does get discussed at times is the cost of medications. Unfortunately, you often do not know the cost of the prescription until you pick it up at the pharmacy. For most conditions that require a prescription, there are less expensive alternatives available. Sometimes these alternatives may be generic forms of medications, they may be 2 or 3 times a day instead of once a day, and they may be a little less likely to work. But they can be free or $4 or otherwise very reasonable. There are many name-brand-only medications for children that are $70-150 for a 10 day or one month supply.
     The technology exists to be able to do something amazing with the prescriptions. What if the doctor could tell you, based on the medication, your insurance, and the pharmacy, how much the prescription was going to cost? No more surprise at the pharmacy. I think this could take a minute or so with a computer. Both the doctor and you the family could make a more informed choice. And it would be natural to pick something cheaper if it was otherwise "just as good". Many programs do this on the Internet when you are searching for a DVD or a coffee maker.
      An added benefit to having this ability is that it would likely push everyone to use more generics. With many antibiotics, that is a good thing. Because the older antibiotics are often not the "big guns", we would all be encouraged to use the "weakest thing that is likely to work". That would help us keep the bacteria from becoming more resistant over time.
     Although I think a computer program that provided this information would save this country millions and millions every year in medical care costs, it sadly will not come to exist anytime soon. The reason is that the pharmceutical companies and the pharmacies will lose money. But I think pediatricians and the families that they serve would love this ability. Maybe some day....

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