Thursday, October 21, 2021

Can we stop preventing certain diseases by making health care affordable?

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I recently got a call from my doctor. She informed me that I would need to take a flu shot before I could go home to Texas. I told her I’d be in Washington DC for three days, but my doctor said that, technically, she had to take it upon herself to prevent my death and suffering from the flu, making it necessary for me to protect myself before I arrived in Washington. I felt slightly awkward about it, but she insisted that it was necessary.

So I went to my appointment. The flu shot wouldn’t arrive for another two days, and I was happy to give it a shot, but the cold and flu season really got under my skin. People who had flu vaccines, like my doctor, were smiling and laughing, but I was in a state of discomfort. I kept hoping that this time I’d be lucky enough to not get the flu, but I’d already contracted the dreaded West Nile virus (as my family did last year), so I might as well get my flu shot to be safe.

My family is running several health issues, including an autoimmune disorder, eczema, painful medical conditions, and my father’s neurodegenerative disease. These are all things that, while illnesses, are extremely helpful in our personal life, in our professional life, and financially. The family of four has limited resources, and we all depend on our health for survival.

My doctor informed me that she did not have the money to vaccinate our kids. She mentioned that even if I wanted to immunize my kids without getting another diagnosis or an ongoing hospitalization, I’d have to do it with a private physician, the cost of which would be prohibitive. According to her logic, I was lucky to have the money to treat her medical issues, but not able to protect my kids against a disease that could potentially kill me or my family. Although my main decision about immunizing my children was based on a personal medical health issue, the cost and bureaucracy around vaccinating our kids had too much input.

My wife and I are both cardiologists. We think about our patients and their health very carefully. We understand the complexities of being a cardiologist with no specific surgical expertise and advising a person on how to take prescribed medication and safe practice a process. We fear that there is a great lack of understanding about why physician choices for vaccine-preventable diseases are so often constrained and how far we need to go to change that situation.

The concept of the co-pay prescription is a powerful one, but why is it too expensive to provide medicine for some people while others pay the entire cost?

The concept of the co-pay prescription is a powerful one, but why is it too expensive to provide medicine for some people while others pay the entire cost? I don’t know about you, but I know that many people can afford to eat twice a day and to travel to visit friends and family if they need to, and my children are some of the lucky ones that don’t have to pay out of pocket when they visit grandma. Your refusal to vaccinate your children for diseases that could possibly kill them or put them in need of hospitalization should mean that you take responsibility for that fact that they don’t get those vaccines. The cost doesn’t matter. All that matters is that people are willing to accept the responsibility, to acknowledge the danger, and to make a decision that is in their best interest. The idea of a co-pay prescription isn’t that difficult, and it saves people an unnecessary amount of time and money.

The co-pay prescription for influenza vaccination, or any vaccination, should be a simple matter that would actually save people money. Vaccination is very effective, but there are those who still refuse to vaccinate their children, often at the advice of their own doctors. I understand why this is. I spent the last year trying to convince my cardiologist that I was legitimately sick and wasn’t feigning illness. That was a painful time for me, but still, the doctor was right: I should have trusted my gut.

I’ve recently spoken to a national public policy organization about their solutions to the problems of vaccinations and health insurance. I’ve shown them that co-pay prescriptions for vaccines are an effective way to get patients and physicians to think about why people are opting out of vaccination and to bring people together to solve the problem. I believe that the co-pay prescription can save people lives, ease the financial burden, and realize the benefit of immunizing children against vaccine-preventable diseases. We need this. As a nation, we should be bringing people together to provide medicine for a myriad of diseases that can kill or hurt lives and

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