What Pisses Me Off: Medical costs

OK, so I suppose it’s a little wrong to say this item pisses me off, because it’s something that doesn’t affect me greatly at the moment. But it is something that I would like to have explained to me, if there’s anyone who can do so, to my satisfaction!

I’d really like to know why so many medical appliances and materials have to cost such apparently exorbitant prices, when many of them appear to be of such simple materials, and in many cases can also be bought much cheaper from other sources.

One that immediately springs is the price of spectacle frames. I’d be prepared to accept (just) that lenses need careful manufacture, to match the requirements of the optician so that our eyesight isn’t made worse by a badly made lens, rather than better. But frames – do they have to be so pricy? Especially the so-called ‘designer’ ones, supposedly worked out after many hours of careful though by people like Versace and many others, when all they do, whoever designs them, is hold the vital lenses in a position where the eye can see through them? Honestly, is there any specialised design skill needed here; their frames really are little better than the cheap reading glasses you can buy in any chemist or novelty shop, but for about 20 times the price.

Then we have those plastic shoe inserts, supplied by one of the footwear specialists in the high street. A friend of mine went to this firm because of a slight ache in one heel and he was sold a scrap of moulded foam plastic to correct what the specialist said was a bit of heel misalignment – it cost him over $800 dollars! I would be delighted if someone could explain that one! However careful the measuring had to be to get the plastic into the right shape, that is a lot of money.

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Another friend went to a local dentist a couple of days ago, to see about having a wisdom tooth removed because it was bothering her somewhat and she was shocked to be told the extraction would cost $2,300! That must have worked out at about $5.00 for the tiny amount of anaesthetic used $295.00 for the value of the pliers to pull the tooth and $2,000 for the dentist’s skill in pulling it out! I’m having a bit of a joke here of course, but I can think of no other way to arrive at such a figure, to extract just one tooth.

While we’re in the dentist’s waiting room, there’s the dental mechanic to be considered. A denture these days can cost four figures – not unlike the footwear man above a denture must use a couple of dollars-worth of plastic and maybe another hundred or so for some well-made teeth, and then the skill of the mechanic to assemble a wearable, comfortable and realistic-looking denture, a skill which must be costing the customer many hundreds of dollars an hour to provide.

Even the drugs we can buy over the counter in chemists or supermarkets cost a phenomenal amount, when one considers the minute amount of the actual drug there is in each tablet, most of which is chalk or some other simple carrier to contain the vital paracetamol or whatever medicine it might be. I am well aware that these companies spend vast amounts in developing a new drug, but they do get several years where the patent laws protect them and during which time they can charge more or less what they like. But surely, with the household drugs, like paracetamol, codeine, etc., the costs of development have long since been recouped and the prices could drop much lower than they are at present.

There, I’ve had my say, whether I’m wrong or right – I’d be delighted if anyone out there can satisfactorily explain these high costs, and if they can I will gladly apologise to the good people who make all this stuff for us. Just convince me!