It is no secret that there are a number of problems with the current state of the American healthcare system.
Obamacare remains deeply flawed. And partisan gridlock in Washington has so far prevented fixes that will ease the burden it imposes on American families and businesses.
It follows that there is much that can be done to give Americans access to better, more affordable healthcare.
I have written before about the success of the Medicare Part D system. It’s saving Americans money and, according to the CBO, costs 45 percent — $349 billion — less than initial projections.
And there’s another part of our healthcare system doesn’t need much fixing at all: medicine.
The actual drugs — both prescription and generic — that prevent, treat, and cure diseases are far and away the best functioning and most cost-effective aspect of American healthcare today.
American medicine is something that should make us all proud.
It’s an example of reasonable regulation combined with private innovation that has become too rare in an age of government meddling and corporate complacency.
Indeed, American pharmaceutical companies are the most innovative in the world. Despite an average drug costing over a billion dollars to develop and taking more than a decade to be thoroughly tested and approved, there are currently a world-leading 3,800 new drugs in development in America, 70 percent of which are dedicated to entirely new ways to target or treat diseases.
It’s this kind of innovation that has cut the death rate from HIV/AIDS by 80 percent in two decades, and has made strides against diseases as varied as rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis, and cancer. With every passing year scientists devise more novel approaches to tackle more complex diseases.
American pharmaceutical scientists are pursuing cutting-edge treatments like gene and cell therapy, RNA interference, and nanotechnology. All of this is leading to drugs that are more personalized and treat the right patients at the right time.
In short, the drug industry is doing its best to treat the worst diseases out there and improve quality of life for all Americans — not to mention the rest of the world.
The most impressive thing about modern medicine, however, is that prescriptions only account for about 9 percent of all healthcare spending nationally.
Yet many Americans feel that drugs are overpriced, especially prescription drugs, even though growth in spending on drugs is at historically low rates.
In part, this is because insurers ask us to share a greater percentage of the cost of drugs compared to other healthcare options. For example, insurers ask us to pay an average of 20 percent of the cost of a prescription, but only 4 percent of the cost of a hospital stay.
This punishes people who make the responsible decision to stay on preventive medication and saddles the rest of us with the costs from patients who abandon their medication and wind up in expensive hospitals.
To this end, it’s not medicine that needs to be fixed, but healthcare coverage that needs to be rethought. A shift to preventing diseases upfront and curing instead of just treating them would save us money and benefit society in general.
A well-funded and functioning science-based regulatory system that works with experts in 21st century medicine will help us reach this goal.
However, politicians want to tighten regulations and restrictions on one of the few bright spots in American healthcare.
It’s time for Washington to learn a lesson they seem hard-pressed to accept: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist, Fox News contributor, and author of several books including "Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond" and the recently released "The End of Authority: How a Loss of Legitimacy and Broken Trust Are Endangering Our Future" (Rowman and Littlefield). Read more reports from Doug Schoen — Click Here Now.
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