What happened to healthcare’s moral compass?

OK, I get it. The media loves reporting terrible news and exposing how companies are ripping us off, but the stories around healthcare are very troubling. They all seem to center around one issue; money. What happened?

A moral compass is used about a person’s ability to judge what is right and wrong and act accordingly.” So is setting a price of $170,000 for a cancer treatment morally right? What about a health insurer denying a claim without opening the patient’s file?

A record-high 50% of Americans rate the overall state of moral values in the U.S. as “poor,” and another 37% say it is “only fair.” Just 1% think the state of moral values is “excellent,” and 12% “good.” These are the results of a Gallup Poll released on June 15, 2022.

The question then becomes, “do healthcare companies care about what the public thinks of them?”. We need them more than they need us, and they know it. Charging $170,000 for a cancer drug is ok because our complex pricing system hides what patients’ insurance pays. Rejecting a claim is easy, mainly if it saves us money.

Congress is starting to recognize that voters are fed up with the high cost of American healthcare. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing examining the middlemen’s impact on patients. In March, the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability investigated PBM tactics that ” harm patient care and increase costs for consumers.”

PBMs keep the prices they’re able to secure secret. Patient copays and coinsurance are based on the higher list price, not the PBMs’ discounted price. So patients can spend hundreds of dollars more out of pocket each year than they would if they had access to the discounted price at the pharmacy counter.

All told PBMs and other industry intermediaries collected over half of every dollar spent on brand medications in 2020.

According to a Congressional report:

50 Pharmaceutical Executives in 10 Companies Made $1.9 Billion in 2021 and could receive $2.8 Billion in Golden Parachutes.

10 Pharmaceutical CEOs Could Receive $1.6 Billion in Golden Parachutes, while Americans Struggle to Afford Life-Saving Drugs.

10 Pharmaceutical Companies Made $102 Billion in Profits in 2021 – a 137% increase from 2020.

So how much is enough? How can a CEO collect that much money when 25% of patients can’t afford their medications? Where is it written that a CEO has to earn that much money?

Those of us who have sat in research have heard the stories of patients hurting because of the delays and expenses of American healthcare. If you can listen to this and not have any empathy you’re probably a perfect fit for a career in healthcare.

I keep praying that things will change without the necessity of Congressional intervention, but I’m afraid the profit motive to string an addiction. Now we’re reading about senior citizens getting kicked out of assisted living facilities because they aren’t accepting Medicaid payments. Then there is the couple who received a bill of over $200,000 after their relative died in hospice care because the state allows reimbursement from family members to go after the deceased’s assets.

The moral compass within healthcare is broken.