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Readers respond to stories about drug prices in Canada

It is so hard to believe that the United States, being one of the "Super Powers" of the world, has let its health-care system teeter on the edge of an epidemic. When we, as Americans, have to look to other countries to find affordable prescriptions and medications to maintain our health, it shows the greed of the American drug companies. This has sent our health insurance status into a downward spiral.

I own a small business here in West Virginia. We at one time had a small group health insurance plan, but were forced to drop it, due to the extreme rise in premium costs. I was added to my wife's health insurance plan. She has been in management at Tri-State Greyhound Park & Gaming Center, going on 10 years. Two months after I was put onto her insurance, the company announced that they would no longer offer paid health insurance as a benefit. They stated that they would maintain insurance for management for a weekly payroll deduction of $156 a week for a family plan or $12 a week for an employee-only plan.

There was no way we could afford an $8,100-a-year family plan, so we were forced to drop myself and our child off of her insurance plan.

We scrambled to find some kind of affordable insurance. Due to the fact that I take Paxil and Lipitor, most claims were rejected, would have had riders on them to not cover my monthly medications, or were just so expensive that we could afford only one or the other. So, at this point, our child and I have no health insurance. We have to pay for doctor visits and medications out of our pocket, and we hope and pray not to ever be hurt or sick.

It just seems that American health care has reached a "Catch 22" phase. If you can afford insurance, you can't afford medications or vice-versa. Or the premiums are so high that if you HAD that kind of money each month, you could afford to go to the doctor anyway.

I am just your average "John Doe," trying to make a living, pay the bills and provide decent health care for my family. I am now forced to scour Canadian online pharmacies for cheaper prescription prices. And to read that a major American drug company is going to cut supplies to Canada because they are reselling at lower costs, enrages me! How dare they!

If this keeps up, I fear that a lot of Americans may be learning the words to "O' Canada" and making a run north of the border.

Jodie Perry

Hurricane

 

As a Canadian-born American citizen, I am amused and annoyed by the debate about health care in the U.S. vs. Canada. I left Canada in 1967 when my employer transferred me to California. Except for my children, my family is all in Canada. I have repeatedly dealt with the Canadian health-care system as my parents aged and passed away.

The Canadian system is far from perfect. Your Aug. 3 articles comparing the two countries' systems were well done. They certainly underscore the need for an impartial debate, if that is possible. The American system's costs are out of control, while the Canadians struggle with a serious lack of physicians and the latest medical gizmos. But they are still on the right track. The life expectancy of babies and their ages are a testament to their approach.

I am starting a new manufacturing business in West Virginia, and health-care costs are of real concern to us, the founders. I am a strong believer in free enterprise tempered with social responsibility. Market-driven demand is theoretically based upon customer choice. But health happens randomly because of a lot of external, genetic, unknown and sometimes self-inflicted conditions. As a caring society, surely we can, and should, care for one another and not profit from it. A $15 million annual income for a pharmaceutical CEO is certainly the ultimate arrogant and robber baron mentality. European, Japanese, Canadian and Australian executives all survive very well on a fraction of U.S. CEO average incomes.

And for those who think that U.S. citizens need to be "protected" somehow from Canadian firms, and that Canadians should be prevented from selling the same medicines here in the U.S. for reasonable prices, because they might not be as safe, I would like to point out that, in the 1950s, it was Canada's National Research Council that first uncovered the potential horrors of thalidomide to pregnant women. The U.S. FDA took more than a year to accept the Canadian findings, due to pressure from the drug's maker. As a result, no thalidomide babies were born in Canada, except for mothers who came to the U.S. to buy the pill. Which country was safe then? Canada has excellent scientific watchdogs as well as price controls

Given the choice between the overpriced and uncontrolled U.S. health-care system and the imperfect Canadian system, this moderate Republican thinks that we — as caring Americans — must find a better path. Both the Canadians and, I believe, the Australians, have done so. They are practicing true compassionate conservatism.

Allan Tweddle

Charleston

 

I have long wondered why we have to reinvent the wheel here. Many other countries offer health coverage to their citizens. Why aren't we looking at those systems and copying?

I'm a paramedic, so I see all kinds of medical problems and personal situations up close. The usual problems are:

  • People who won't take care of themselves.
  • The uninsured working poor. They don't have the taxi-ambulance pass given to the poor or any insurance through their employers. They are worse off than the very poor on welfare in this regard: another incentive to stop trying to improve their situation.
  • Cover your ass (CYA) medical orders jacking up the costs.
  • Problems aren't eligible for insurance coverage until they get bad. Last night we had a young woman who was having abdominal pain, which could be many things. It could be pregnancy, for instance. She delivered four months ago and stopped using birth control pills a month ago because her insurance wouldn't pay for them. So now, she may have another unplanned pregnancy, which will be very expensive for her, her insurance, and us over the next 18 years.
  • A completely fragmented system in which all the players are constantly maneuvering for different angles.
  • Our health insurance worries wouldn't be so worrisome if we had just started the discussion. But we have been discussing this for almost two generations now. We're going to discuss ourselves into a hole. Let's set a timetable for making some hard decisions and force ourselves to confront the demons.

    William Dawson

    Culloden

     

    I have an MBA and lost my job. COBRA health insurance ran out after 18 months and the premiums increased to $800 a month. My wife, a registered nurse who has helped people all her life, became disabled with a severe back injury.

    Medical bills totaled $40,000. She requires $600 a month in medications. We applied for bankruptcy. My wife needs $100,000 for a spinal fusion operation. The alternative is to become paralyzed, an invalid, and go insane from the tormenting horrific pain.

    No insurance company will insure us.

    The American people are being taken for suckers and are in a dream world, waving flags and worrying about terrorism. The real terrorists are the pharmaceutical/insurance/energy/financial mega corporations.

    I regularly order my prescription drugs from Canada or England. From Canada, I get Effexor XR (75 mg 100 capsules) brand name for $145. It would cost me $303 at CVS. I order all three refills at once to save on shipping. They are exceptionally kind, courteous and efficient.

    From England, I order Fosamax (70 mg 4 tablets) for $44 for my wife's osteoporosis. Here at Walgreen's it cost $88. My wife is also on Percocet for severe pain. You can't order that online because it is a controlled drug.

    Out of curiosity, I called up a retail pharmacy in Toronto, and Percocet sold for $145 for what my wife has to pay $255 for here. We can't travel to Canada to get that drug. But we can kill ourselves here with all the alcohol and cigarettes we can get.

    The greatest economic depression this country has ever known is about to befall us all due to the greed and corruption of the insurance/pharmaceutical/health care/energy industries. America desperately needs universal, single-payer federal health care for all.

    James Boyne

    Mount Pleasant, S.C.

     

    Back in July, I felt really ill when I returned to Charleston from taking my son to camp in Pennsylvania. I had a terrible pain in my stomach, was sweating from time to time, was exhausted, disoriented, and generally felt just awful. I figured the odds were pretty even that either I had food poisoning or was having a heart attack.

    I had a heart attack several years ago — caused not by heart disease, but by a systemic infection — so I know what one feels like, and this could have been it. The problem was, because of my concerns over health insurance for me and my family, I was terrified to go to the doctor.

    I am self-employed and have to pay for my family's health insurance. My business is pretty successful, but the insurance premiums of $1,150 per month present a strain that we cannot bear for long. Even if I can find insurance at an affordable rate, I will be forced to re-qualify for that insurance every year. So if, for example, I or someone in my family develops a serious illness, when it comes time to re-qualify, the insurance company is free to charge as astronomical a premium as they wish so as to make it impossible for us to renew.

    I am very healthy and strong. I am not overweight, nor do I smoke. My blood pressure and cholesterol are good. Grueling 15-mile mountain bike rides several times per week are not uncommon. In the winter, I run on a treadmill regularly. Health should not be a concern for me.

    If I was diagnosed with a heart attack, though, it would have made it impossible for me to secure insurance. So, instead of seeing the doctor, I stayed at home and took aspirin, fish oil, and Ginkgo Biloba to thin my blood; Benadryl to try to relax; and tried to rest as much as possible, just in case I was having a cardiac event. I also took grapefruit seed extract, garlic, olive leaf extract, and ate lots of yogurt, just in case I had food poisoning.

    I wonder if George Bush, Shelly Moore Capito or Rush Limbaugh ever find themselves in such a horrible quandary. I wonder if they ever were faced with such a terrible dilemma, would they feel differently about nationalizing health care? I wonder if I were a member of their family, would insurance company profits still be more important than my access to decent medical attention now and in the future. A $1,150 premium is pocket change to these people, so I'm certain such concerns would never cross their minds.

    A week ago, I applied for a Medical Savings Account insurance policy in order to cut my premiums to about $500 per month. Today, I received a rejection letter stating I am ineligible because of my cardiac event of several years ago, even though I have no heart disease. Would the health plan to which Ms. Capito subscribes deny her for such a history? Would Mr. Bush be rejected because of his history of alcoholism? Would Rush be refused because he is grossly overweight, has hearing problems, and smokes Cuban cigars?

    I would gladly pay 10 to 15 percent more in taxes in order to cover everyone and spread the risk pool to 250 million instead of a relative few, as in current group plans. Such a system would be much more just and compassionate.

    Elliot M. Namay, Jr.

    Charleston


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