I take a medication that treats a condition I’ve lived with all my life. Every three months I make an appointment with my doctor to get the prescription renewed. Because this kind of specialist is in such short supply, I often cannot even get an appointment to see my doctor within three months of my last visit. If I can’t get an appointment in time, there’s nothing the pharmacist can do except let me run out of my medication.
I’m lucky; with my condition this is merely an inconvenience. For Arizonans with more serious conditions, missing a dosage can mean an expensive trip to the emergency room, or worse. My brother is one of the paramedics who is first on the scene and it pains me to watch him have to deal with preventable emergencies.
Back to my story. Once I finally get my appointment, I must take several hours off work, drive to the hospital, check in with the receptionist, and wait in reception area with other people, some of whom are really sick. Then a nurse walks me back to the doctor’s office where I answer a few questions and, poof! My prescription is renewed. That’s the process I go through every three months. Am I right to believe this could be handled in five minutes over the phone? Does it have to consume the time of several trained medical workers, use up scarce hospital space, waste three hours of my own time, put me in a room with whatever pathogens are floating around the hospital. And cost me $200 for a two-minute office visit?
Next, I drive to pick up my prescription. It’s a common medication, but the pharmacy cannot buy it from the cheapest provider. It must instead buy the medicine from a company with an Arizona license even if a company licensed in another state has a better price. As a consequence, by the time it gets to me, my prescription costs $500. Does any of this sound familiar?
None of this is the hospital’s fault, or the pharmacy’s. Both are simply following Arizona law.
Normally, high prices are simply a function of demand exceeding supply. But, in the case of healthcare, government-imposed mandates also add costs through inefficiency. The way to lower prices is to have adequate supply and most importantly, eliminate the inefficiency.
When COVID-19 hit, increasing the supply and streamlining the delivery of medical services suddenly became a top priority. Through temporary executive orders, Governor Ducey allowed pharmacists to dispense 90-day maintenance supplies of medication when patients could not immediately visit their doctors. The order permitted physicians to prescribe medicine over the phone, and gave pharmacies the ability to purchase medication from companies licensed anywhere in the country. In other words, medical professionals, not bureaucrats, were put in charge for a change. The result? Enough supply and efficient processes.
I’m not alone in my story. Other people’s stories are far worse than mine. This has to stop. When you elect me to the state Senate, you can count on me to fight to make these “temporary” measures permanent. Help me get there and we can end this kind of story once and for all.