Medicaid is the only thing standing between millions of Americans and death, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
My prescription for rifaxamin, an antibiotic, costs Medicaid $4,315 per month in the United States. Medicaid – arguably the closest thing the US has to the NHS – is keeping millions alive, including me. Without this staggeringly expensive drug to help control the symptoms associated with my Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), I would be left with constant, crippling, and incredibly painful diarrhoea. Malnutrition and dehydration would force my doctors to surgically implant a port in my chest and put me on a nightly intravenous infusion of saline and nutrients. I’d spend eight hours hooked up to a whirring infusion pump. For five hungry months in 2015, instead of eating food IV nutrition was pumped into me every night – the profoundly unpleasant experience was also ridiculously expensive, costing up to $64,000 a month.
Like most people, I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on medication. Instead, I rely on Medicaid, which is a government-funded social health insurance program for low-income Americans. I qualify for Medicaid because I’m disabled and my government disability benefit – the entire amount I’m expected to survive on – is only $750 a month, well under the Medicaid eligibility cutoff. Meanwhile, the US government considers anyone living on less than $1,011 a month to be living in poverty. Against the crushing backdrop of that inhumane, sub-poverty disability allowance, without Medicaid I’d have no hope of affording the medicines that keep me from an agonisingly painful and entirely preventable death.
And in the land of serious chronic illness, rarely do patients escape with just one prescription. Every 28 days I inject Cimzia, a biologic medicine, into my thigh at a cost of $3,888 per dose. That yearly tab of $50,544 exceeds the median personal income in the US by almost twenty thousand dollars.
And it isn’t that I’m some sort of black swan outlier. A newly published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concludes that the US spends “approximately twice as much as other high-income countries on medical care”. These peer-reviewed findings in an influential journal confirm that my experience is all too common and are useful in advancing the cost of care discussion, but not as immediately useful to me as Cimzia.
Cimzia helps control my IBD by slowing the rate at which my immune system shreds my small intestine. Without effective treatment, my small intestine becomes inflamed and ulcerated, leading to the formation of inflexible scar tissue. Over time, the bowel progressively narrows until food can no longer pass through. The resulting intestinal obstruction is a potentially life-threatening emergency for which I’ve been hospitalised six or seven times over the course of my life. Eventually, the only option is to surgically cut out the diseased portion of intestine. Hopefully, Cimzia calms the inflammation effectively enough that we don’t have to cut any more of my small …read more
Source:: New Statesman