It is hard to engage in any political discourse in the United States without discussing the issue of Medicare and the pharmaceutical industry. For many Americans, the costs to receive medical care are astronomical, even when taking insurance into account. Such a hefty cost for something so seemingly vital has inspired a wave of criticism and action from various groups. Filmmakers such as Michael Moore and politicians such as Bernie Sanders urge the public to take action with regards to healthcare, revealing the realities of the healthcare system and how its structure has pushed many people to drastic actions. Recently, Eli Lilly and Company announced that its new generic brand of Humalog, a type of insulin, was on sale for $137.35; a price that is already discounted by half. Although this is only one company representing a singular brand, it serves as an apt example of the current state of healthcare in the United States and how the system that claims to keep people alive helps nobody but the rich at the cost of the lives of the poor.
In a New York Times article about the same company, Elisabeth Rosenthal notes that the price for the same vial of Humalog in Germany only costs $55, a significantly lower price than what it would cost in the United States. When one sees this vast difference in price, it is hard not to ask how this disparity can exist. The answer is complicated, but one critical factor is that the German healthcare system is universal, meaning that every German citizen receives free healthcare regardless of their financial background. In the United States, healthcare is mostly private, but there are government programs for certain groups such as the elderly and veterans.
While many rationalize the American healthcare system as relatively good when compared to the universal systems in Europe and Canada, these rationalizations often ignore the reality for poor Americans and how broken the healthcare system in America actually is. It is certainly easy to say that privatized health care is effective when you can afford to pay for all your medical expenses, regardless of price. The price of medicine and procedures are so high for some Americans that they decide to either forgo medical treatment entirely or, as seen in the opening scene of Michael Moore’s 2007 film “Sicko,” perform medical treatment on themselves. In the United States, it appears that your health is only as valuable as your net worth, meaning the future for many people is grim if they fall ill or become injured.
The universal healthcare system is not perfect either, but it is certainly better than having people die or drown in lifelong debt as a result of a medical emergency. The price of living in America is too expensive for most people, and any position that attempts to justify the current state of healthcare comes from either privilege or a need to defend the wealthy. While this issue will not see immediate change, the rise of certain politicians such as Sanders shows that many Americans are frustrated with the current system and want transformation. The question now is not whether we should adopt universal healthcare, but how many more people need to suffer before the change is made.