Privatization Policies As The Cause Of Medical Drug Commodification In The United States Essays Examples
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Currently, the United States has a healthcare system that is highly managed by private organizations. Consequently, private drug manufacturing organizations are for-profit, and have been accused of offering inferior or harmful medicine at inflated prices. Despite the accusations, it is becoming common that the US is increasingly depending on market mechanisms, which will obviously lead to unscrupulous medical businesses fueled by their commercial endeavors. According to various experts in American Healthcare System, healthcare in the country is now entering a deep crisis. Expected as a public service to its citizen, the system has been transformed into for-profit enterprises in which wealthy merchants and physicians have become the sellers of the services, while the patients have been converted into mere consumers. In this regard, both cases subserve corporate interests and they may lead to situations whereby doctors deprofessionalize and medicine converted into business commodity, as patients become depersonalized. Lown (1-2) has noted that over the years, as an illustration of the doctor deprofessionalization, doctors have been colluding with drug manufacturers to lie about their benefits. The worst part of the story is that for better or for worse, these drug manufacturing for-profit private enterprises will obviously sell the medication, regardless whether patients have money or not. Therefore this paper, while examining privatization as the cause of commoditization of medical drugs, it will use the works of some political economy theorists to explain the origin and development of privatization in the US drug manufacturing industry, its impacts on the population, any reactions to its change and solutions to its problems.
What Political Economy Theorists Say About and the Origin and Development of the High Privatization of the US Medical Production
According to Reich
Reich notes that since 1970s, the overall economy of the United States has been soaring, despite the recessions. Vast arrays of products have been bombarding consumers’ eyes, with standard prices of goods and services declining over time (Reich 3). However, he (Reich 4) observes that the current healthcare system that Americans are experiencing is not the one that they were experiencing in 1970s. Averagely, it is large due to innovations and inventions of new drugs and medical equipment. Realizable also is that the companies have been experiencing more efficient stock markets surging. After capitalism triumphed over communism, observers have noted that it resulted in private firms and private owners, leading to widening gap between the rich and the poor. The inequality has been heightened by social-economic threats like heightening job insecurity, global warming and environmental hazards. Accompanied with the rising inequality has been the weakening democracy.
Although democracy is supposed to enable citizens merge efforts to determine the rule of their country, that has not been the case. It is not bearing what is supposed to achieve. According to Reich (4), “Democracy is supposed to enable us to make such tradeoffs, or help us achieve both growth and equity or any other goals we share in common.” As capitalism improves, democracy has been weakening: It is not performing the basic functions that Reich is talking about, compared to earlier decades. In those days, there were good public schools, healthcare facilities, progressive income tax systems and trade unions with higher bargaining powers. Currently, the risk of one to lose his or her job has increased, and government’s social safety has become less reliable, than it was before.
The failure of democracy has obviously led to individuals depending on themselves on what they want to buy, and the nation’s citizens have lost their powers of togetherness. In this regard, Reich (4) adds that capitalism has had an effect of shifting power from individuals with their capacities as citizens to their relegated positions of consumers, while elevating investors to higher levels. Earlier on, before super capitalism, consumer and investors had not gripped the nation at such a rate. There were few corporations, and the system of producing goods and services could be predicted. During this period, too, the unions had a lot of power, and thus for the industries and firms to continue maintaining their blue workers, they were to negotiate with the government and the unions. Reich (5) notes that “the tradeoff for this relatively stable and equitable system was very limited range of choice for consumers and investors. Better deals could be found only with great difficult. Major product innovations were rare.” Moreover, “ investors also tended toward passivity, rarely moving their money. There was little point because almost all investments offered about the same moderate returns.”
Since 1970s, situations in the United States have changed radically. Small firms are craving to become larger, global, innovative and more competitive. It is this scenario that Reich has called “super-capitalism”. Super-capitalism has led to the loss of the power of the country’s democracy, and the capacity of the citizens to seek common good have long time disappeared. The major shift, however, begun when American Military began investing heavily in technologies that could be used to fight and shield the country during the era of cold war(Reich 37). The technologies were easily adopted by the then corporations into the production of goods and services. It was at this instance that the country realized the explosion of super capitalism- newer competitors emerged in transportation, manufacturing, communication and finance industries. Mass retailers aggravated the consumers’ powers to choose from a wide range of products. Coinciding with this was that the increased returns from the revenues saw investors’ power being aggravated and enlarged by mutual funds and large pension funds. Both consumers and investors had access to wider choices and better deals. In this regard, consolidation of investor capital led to the formation of giant corporations, with their importance as well as that of CEOs growing tremendously (Reich 64). As the giant corporations dominated all industries, labor unions began to shrink; government institutions that had been constitutionally put there begun to disappear. Over the decades, even political campaigns have been becoming capitalistic: there has been immense lobbying by some politicians to get campaign money from the companies and CEOs. When such politicians assume offices, they have been obviously unleashing deregulatory plans to pave way for privatization of industries (Reich 74).
According to Harvey
Harvey agrees with Reich by observing that there is a capitalistic enigma, which is the forerunner of privatization of healthcare as a public service that is rocking all sectors of almost all countries (Harvey vi). Since the American capitalism won over the USSR communism, it has been replicating itself in all sectors. According to him the country risks the same situation that led to the last recession in Healthcare. In fact earlier on, it had been reported that the lack of collective concern led to the “ HIV/AIDS pandemic that surged during the Reagan administration, the ultimate human and financial cost to the society of not heeding clear warning signs because of collective lack of concern, and prejudice against,” (Harvey 1).
Harvey continues to note that at “the ends of 2008, all segments of the economy were experiencing very deep troubles. Consumers’ confidence in [housing markets] has sagged, housing construction ceased, effective demand imploded, retail sales plunged, unemployment surged and stores and manufacturing plants closed down(Harvey 2). Many traditional icons of US industry, such as General Motors, moved closer to bankruptcy, and a temporary bail-out of the Detroit auto companies had to be organized.” Apparently, leaving healthcare, medical drug production included, in the hands of few corporations that are motivated with making profits will obviously result in many health pandemics, just in the same way high deregulation of the financial systems led to financial crunches in 2007(Harvey 3).
Impacts of Capitalism, Corporatism and Privatization on Medicine
The transformation of public health service into for-profit private enterprises has resulted in the patient becoming a mere consumer, like the one that buys a toy on the street, while physicians have depersonalized themselves to collude with drug manufacturers for inflating benefits of some drugs (Pan 179-199; Vidal 451-471). This scenario has been aggravated by the fact that inventions, innovations, and other technological revolutions are now streaming up in drug industries (Morigi 1-7). Further, the growth of fully privatized healthcare organizations have seen increased medical advertisement, with some that are not warranted by government regulatory organizations like Food and Drug Administration (Lown 1-2). In the current Medicare, the costs are rising by about 11% annually. Economists content that it is 3 times the country’s inflation rate. Taking into account that healthcare contributes about a fifth on the country’s GDP, it must be one of the major contributor to the national inflation rates in the country (Pan 179-199; Reich). Currently, the drug industry reputation is becoming increasingly discredited. More and more patients are complaining with no one to attend to them. This can be noticed in the number of physicians that are increasingly being sued for administration of poor medicine (Lown 1-2).
As from the neoliberals’ capitalism, there is thinking that market supremacy will always bring efficiency to all human transactions, even those in healthcare sectors (Mintzberg 2-4). However, although Adam Smith advocated for Market economy when he assumed that there will be hidden to control the distribution of resources between producers and consumers that has not been the case because, the growing influence of such corporations obviously creates “visible hand” in them (Lown 4). Although establishing market system means that buyers and sellers interact freely to choose what they want, this is not enough. As already noted, healthcare is a different need that cannot be compared to physical commodities like houses, vehicles and so forth (Pan 179-199). People will never go to buy vehicles because they are feeling pain, a case that is different with healthcare. If the sale of medicine in healthcare is taken in the same paradigm, there is no doubt that it will lack efficiency it purports. If an individual in pain is not relieved as early as possible, the system should not expect to be efficient (Lown 1-2).
One proxy indicator that the country’s healthcare system is failing is the falling life expectancy. The country’s longer age for one to live has been reducing, indicating prodigious expenditures that many people cannot afford. Mentally ill patients are now becoming dumped in poor community facilities, and the drug culture on the street is now common. Further, due to expensive psychiatric medication, many mentally ill patients are now becoming criminalized; it is considered that of those currently jailed, 10% of them are schizophrenic (Lown 1-2; Mintzberg 2-4). Corporatism in medical services has led to the upsurge of scientific revolutions in the medical sectors. Initially, science was applauded for struggling to improve human life at all stages (Pan 179-199). In mid 1930s, the discovery of penicillin led to the improved demographic transitions. A fetus can now be kept miraculously well after being delivered prematurely, until it develops to a satisfactory stage (Pan 179-199). Defective organs have been replaced, courtesy of the scientific revolution. However, the science cannot be credited with all pluses (Morigi 1-7). Physicians in collusion with drug companies have been employing superficial technologies and reducing human beings to biomedical models (Pan 179-199). Technology alone cannot be medicine for the patient; alternative medicine will also play very important roles in healing a patient (Lown 1-2).
Reactions from People: People need it to Change
According to Harvey, the question of privatization and hence corporatism of public health system is still challenging people to think about whether, in a democratic society, healthcare services should be preserved for a few or not. It is obviously becoming evident that by transforming the country’s medical system into an economic commodity, only those with proper means will afford it (Pan 179-199). Recent opinion polls have indicated that Americans are not willing to transform healthcare services into a commodity, to succumb into Darwinian Philosophies of satisfying few private individuals as corporate owners. Further, it will be the whole nation to fail if the majority sacrifices health, safety nets and education (Lown 1-2; Paton 105-107).
Solutions to the Privatization Menace
What needs to be done is a wide mobilization of drug manufacturers, patients and health professionals to reclaim the soul of medicine. In this regard, political and economic movements in this nation should be apt in educating people against this transformation of healthcare services into corporate domination (Paton 105-107). Since the health of a civil society is ultimately secured when people depend on each other in a communal life, moral values that bond them as Americans should include basic rights like healthcare, security and education (Pan 179-199). In fact, as already stated, allowing corporatism or any privatization in healthcare will only increase the gap between the rich and the poor, despite sacrificing health statuses of a country. Apart from fighting for equal rights, citizens should also consider equity, because everybody in the country has to access affordable medicine (Lown 1-2; Paton 105-107).
It has been noted that health care makes up about a fifth of the US GDP. This is the reason why many private investors would like it to remain liberalized for privatization and corporatism. Apart from involving physical commodities, it also espouses emotional vulnerability. Moreover, it is noticeable that despite the fact that patients have trust in the corporate providers, by even paying the little they have to them, the drug businesses have little trust in themselves that what they can offer is of quality . Reich (3) has shown that the country needs to develop a different model of care. In this regard, he considers the reintroduction of the PublicCare that had been founded in the late 19centuary. This will restore the multitudes who are suffering, to determine the kind of medicine they should have. Further, he urges that the hospital institute HolyCare to offer spiritual comforts to paying patients (Reich 5; Pan 179-199).
Why the Solutions May not be Implemented
Although the solutions look attractive, they may not be adopted easily for implementation by the government. According to both Harvey and Reich, carried over by effects of the falling communism, societies and government in America, Europe and elsewhere have become more concerned with abandoning their socialist systems and replacing them with market systems. In western countries, especially in the United and Britain, the urge to adopt market system emanated from the fact that government controlled systems were too “bureaucratic or excesses of partisanship”. However, some have been demanding the market system to take advantage of the thriving world economy: people have been incentivized by the “drive towards a common market for Europe, globalization and exploitation of opportunities of the “New Economy”.
Harvey, David. The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism. London: Profile Books
Lown, Bernard. The Commodification of Health Care. Physicians for a National Health
Program, 2015. Web. 2015, <http://www.pnhp.org/publications/the_commodification_of_health_care.php?page=all.>
Mintzberg, Henry. Managing the Myths of Health Care. Healthcare Leadership, 2012: 8(3).
Morigi, Valentina et al. Nanotechnology in Medicine: From Inception to Market
Domination. Journal of Drug Delivery, 2012: (2012).Print.
Pan, Jay et al. Does hospital competition improve health care delivery in China?. China
Economic Review, 2015:33. Print.
Paton, Calum R. The Politics and Analytics of Health Policy. Health Policy and Management,
2014: 2(3). Print.
Reich, Robert R .Supercapitalism. New York: Vintage Books, 2011. Print.
Vidal, Matt et al. Postfordism as a dysfunctional accumulation regime: a comparative
analysis of the USA, the UK and Germany. Work Employment & Society, 2013:27(3). Print.
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