What Do Medical Device Giant, Medtronic, Inc., And A Canadian Teenager Have In Common? A Low-Cost Dialysis Device

When we talk about out of control health care costs, we rarely go beyond discussing insurance premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and copays for medical services and prescription drugs. We almost never talk about the high cost machinery medical professionals use everyday to treat medical conditions and whether they can be replaced with low cost alternatives. In fact, we often brag about having the latest, most expensive medical technology in the world.

It’s Time To Focus On Medical Equipment Costs

I admit I never thought about the cost of medical equipment until after reading a
recent article about a Canadian teenager, Anya Pogharian, who invented a low-cost portable dialysis machine. What started out as a school science project is now receiving international attention as a possible alternative to traditional high-cost, facility-based dialysis treatment.

The young inventor was moved to create the device after volunteering at a hospital dialysis facility. She envisioned an alternative to having dialysis patients visit the hospital several times a week to receive treatment lasting up to four (4) hours. She was also concerned about the high cost of traditional machines that make them out of reach to dialysis patients in poorer countries, like India. As part of an internship in a professional lab, she will have an opportunity to test her machine on real blood. The cost to build her machine was approximately $500 dollars.

Reading this news made we want to find out if a similar device was being contemplated by an American company or individual. The good news is that it is.
One of the world’s most profitable and successful medical device makers, Medtronic, Inc., is working to create a portable dialysis device. However, this device is not for the U.S. market, but for India. Medtronic is partnering with Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd in India in making the device.

The article on Anya’s invention also made me realize that these are the kind of inventions we will have to make if we are ever to have affordable universal health care in America. Now, but especially with universal health care, we need to invest in reducing the cost of medical care by lowering the cost of medical equipment. We also need to look at reducing medical care cost by treating and monitoring patients at home, when possible, versus paying expensive hospital and medical facility fees. Not to mention avoiding the health risks hospitals pose that result in more harm and greater cost…
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I Really Do Get Why Obamacare Opponents Don't Like This Law

Like many Americans this week I viewed a lot of online video clips of interviews of the late Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia. Scalia had a lot to say about Obamacare and none of it was supportive of the law. He accused the majority of his fellow justices of abusing their position to uphold a law they wanted instead of following the Constitution. Meanwhile his views on Obamacare were not personal, but legally based.

And then there are the other opponents of Obamacare that I am starting to understand more now. These opponents fall into two camps, but really just one. The first camp hates the idea of government-run health care for all Americans. They think a private, market-based system would do a better job. For them, government-run anything means high-costs and poor service. Don’t ask this group to explain how this is any different from the market-based system currently in place. They just know that if the entire system were government-run, things would be worse than they already are. No evidence needed.

The second Obamacare opponent camp is similar to the first in that they also champion a private, market-based system. They are not anti-government like the first camp; they are just pro-market when it comes to any good or service with profit potential. Taking a hugely profitable, shareholder-loving sector like health care out of the market would hurt the economy. These are the folks who spend a lot of time claiming health care is not a right. They also claim that greater competition in the health care market is the answer to controlling health care costs and increasing accessibility. But above all else, health care is a service that must be paid for by the individual.

I don’t agree with Scalia or the anti-government, pro-market Obamacare haters; however, I do acknowledge that they have very strong beliefs.

Scalia was known for his love of the written word and languages. Everyone who’s read the Affordable Care Act agrees that it is no friend of the well-written word. I think Scalia took great offense to what he viewed as a third rate law. And I also believe that he thought President Obama got something he did not deserve—a great law, not in substance but in historical significance. He was an intellectual elitist that hated the idea of an unworthy law credited to an unworthy person. In this sense, his objection to the Affordable Care Act was personal. Continue Reading...


Young People Reject Hillary Clinton’s Practical Health Insurance Message. Here's How She Can Change It

Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign is unappealing to many young voters. And that's to be expected. Her message of practicality and incrementalism is cold comfort to people struggling with a lack of opportunity and money. Life is pretty bad for a lot of young people (and single women). Many fell into a financial tailspin during the last recession and never climbed out. Yet they are expected to find a way on their own, and that includes paying for their own health insurance.

Meanwhile the message to the health insurance industry is, relax, your continued profits are assured. That can feel like a real slap in the face to young, healthy people. Being a member of the 100% profit club for rich insurance companies is a hard pill to swallow. The 100% profit club includes everyone who pays insurance premiums but don't receive medical care. Insurers don't have to spend any money for these folks and get to keep the thousands of dollars they pay in premiums.

It's Time To Stop Being The Sensible Mom

According to Vox, Hillary Clinton's Democratic Presidential contender, Bernie Sanders, won the support of 84% of voters under 30 in Iowa and this number is projected to be even higher in New Hampshire. His message of single-payer health care resonates with young voters because it does not involve throwing in the towel. It's time for Hillary to learn that young people don't do practical and don’t want to hear that that’s just the way it is. So telling them that single-payer health care is a pipe dream and that proposals to reduce deductibles, copays and prescription drug costs are more practical, won't cut it with these folks. Not to mention that it is health insurance premiums these guys struggle to pay, and prevents them from paying other expenses. Continue Reading...


I'm Siding With Big Pharmaceutical Companies On This One Point

Since the release of the groundbreaking article and book, Bitter Pill, there's been no shortage of articles about people struggling to pay health insurance bills. Meanwhile, health insurers, their lobbyists and politicians have decided that the main perpetrator of this price gouging is the pharmaceutical industry. And now these groups are fighting it out with Big Pharma in the media and in legislative houses around the country.

One of the latest legislative fights is taking place in my backyard. This fight is between the Virginia Association of Health Plans and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association. The Virginia Association of Health Plans is trying to get the Virginia General Assembly to pass legislation that would require pharmaceutical companies to publish the cost of developing, manufacturing and marketing of drugs that cost $80,000 or more for a single course of treatment, according to
The Roanoke Times.

And this morning, February 4, 2016, the
Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is holding a hearing to discuss the very same price increase and transparency issues being debated in the Virginia General Assembly.

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