Atrocious healthcare costs, big companies, and the COVID-19 vaccine

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Unless you live under a rock, you most likely are aware that healthcare is incredibly expensive in America, often to the extent that it becomes impossible for people to afford the care they severely need. This topic is endlessly debated on every political stage with numbers thrown around, but sometimes it just takes one simple, personal experience to show someone just how bad the situation is. 

I’ve had eczema my entire life, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic and having to stay extra careful, I’ve been washing my hands and using hand sanitizer a ton since March. My hands have since become a warzone, and many days I can barely move some of my fingers because of how raw they get. Luckily for me, a solution came from a dermatologist-prescribed cream called Eucrisa, made by Pfizer (we’ll get back to them later in the article). Thanks to this medicine my hands are now almost completely healed. I have the privilege of having insurance that covers this, so I’ve only had to pay $30 for three 100g tubes, each about the size of a toothpaste tube. Last week, out of curiosity, I decided to check what the price would be if I did not have this coverage, and I was shocked. One tube, again which I paid $10 for, is sold for the out of pocket cost of $990. That means that if my health insurance didn’t cover it and I wanted the full use of my hands back, I would have needed to shell out almost $3,000, assuming the tube I’m using now is the last one I’ll need.  

Personal anecdote aside, this got me thinking. We’re living through the worst healthcare crisis in a century, and if the solution to my hand condition would have put a hole in my wallet, who knows what the healthcare industry will try to pull when selling the newly announced COVID-19 vaccines. 

“We’re living through the worst healthcare crisis in a century.”

According to healthline.com, the CARES Act passed earlier this year guarantees people with appropriate coverage can receive a vaccine free of charge. However, I think my Eucrisa story proves that those with coverage are clearly not the ones who need to worry about the possibility of an expensive vaccine. According to the healthline article, “The CARES Act only applies to individual and employer-sponsored health plans regulated by the Affordable Care Act, as well as traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage.” This leaves out people who are covered by short-term health plans, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Vaccines for Children, which the HEROES Act, proposed in May, would include. However, as is the agonizing MO of Washington these days, this bill is still sitting on the senate floor. 

Regardless of whether or not the HEROES Act eventually passes, this still leaves out those who have no insurance whatsoever. According to the Census Bureau’s website, “In 2018, 8.5 percent of people, or 27.5 million, did not have health insurance at any point during the year. The uninsured rate and number of uninsured increased from 2017 (7.9 percent or 25.6 million).” That’s 27.5 million people that would have to pay almost $1,000 for a toothpaste tube sized dose of hand cream, and unfortunately that is probably smaller than the actual number. If between 2017 and 2018 the number went up by 2 million, imagine what two more years and a pandemic might do. 

The bottom line is this: Any COVID-19 vaccine should be free of charge for anyone that wants it. It’s a small but necessary concession that doesn’t even come close to covering the financial damage this disease has caused. This isn’t asking for hospital fees to be paid for, even though those have already crippled many families because apparently the loss of a loved one isn’t enough pain to deal with. This is simply a plea that we do one thing right in this mess and stop screwing over the less fortunate because they can’t afford to pay into a system that this year has proved more than ever does not serve them adequately. 

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