At the outset of putting fingers to keys this morning, I wasn’t intending to write about this topic. I changed my mind, however, because if one more documented instance of Big Pharma’s greedy, hypocritical, exasperating behavior means that we might all benefit from substantial and lasting health care reform, then I am certainly not above sharing my personal story. In particular, this highly frustrating anecdote refers to the unnecessary hassle it has been to obtain one of the three medications I must take on a daily basis to effectively treat my illness. This forthcoming narrative also underscores the perfidy of the industry itself and, in particular, its automatic assumption that anyone who uses its free or reduced cost services must be trying to cheat the system. It shouldn’t surprise any of us by now that this underlying attitude somehow isn’t portrayed in the self-serving television advertising advancing the program’s merits.
You may have seen the commercial. It was pretty ubiquitous for a good long while. A soothing voiceover, couched in hushed tones meant to intimate gentle sympathy, states that American’s pharmaceutical industry might be able to help those who are uninsured attain their prescription drugs at a deep discount. We are led to believe that an imaginary bus tour is underway, looking for all the world like the kind favored by political candidates on their way back and forth from event to event. A series of different looking people from all walks of life announce proudly their allegiance to their own particular state of residence. A man who once led a daytime TV show which frequently showcased the results of paternity tests and established the true identity of baby daddies smoothly performs his role as spokesperson. That this ad aired constantly in the immediate period before Health Care Reform became a political and ideological football was no accident. The implication was that Big Pharma could regulate itself just fine, thank you, and not only that, the industry was so altruistic as to offer medications for needy Americans without need of government arm twisting. I admit at the time I viewed these ads with much suspicion, but after I unexpectedly lost my Medicaid coverage at the end of July, it was an option I had no choice but to pursue, since paying $700 a month out of pocket for a thirty day supply isn’t exactly an viable alternative.