I Skipped the First Presidential Debate

By Woodrow Wilcox

I did not view the first presidential candidate debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry. But, after the debate, some senior citizens told me that the ordering of prescription drugs at a discount from Canada was an issue mentioned during the debate. I was asked for my opinion on the matter.

Because I help senior citizens often, and because, I write this column regularly, a lot of information has come to me. But, I have not had the time to sift through it as I would like to do. So, I don’t claim to be an expert in this matter. I am open to more information. But, that being stated, let me tell you my opinion based on the information and the experience that I have.

Canada controls the price of prescription medicines to protect Canadian citizens from what Canada considers “unhealthy” pricing practices by pharmaceutical companies. When Americans order medicines from Canada, there is less medicine for Canadians. At this time, the difference is not much because few Americans order their prescription medicines from Canada. But, as more and more Americans do this, the Canadian government, the U.S. government, and the pharmaceutical companies will be pushed into conflict.

The Canadian government and pharmaceutical companies have already informed the U.S. government of their concerns. Any President of the United States, no matter which person or of which political party, would be wise to listen to the concerns of our Canadian neighbors. We have a long history of good relations with Canada and all of us should want to keep it that way.

I believe that the main concern of the Canadian government is that allowing widespread over-the-border ordering of prescription medicines by Americans will bring the Canadian government into a less favorable position with American pharmaceutical companies. I believe that they are afraid that if the practice spreads too much, some American pharmaceutical companies will simply refuse to do business in or with Canada. If that happens, Canadian citizens will not be able to get certain medicines without crossing the border into the U.S. and paying the U.S. prices for medicines. Ouch!

In my opinion, America should regulate the charges for prescription medicine, hospital services, medical services, dental services, and all other related health services. We already partially regulate these charges for senior citizens through a system of Medicare approved charges.

The health of the citizenry should be one of the most vital concerns of the government. At the federal and state levels, America has regulated charges for oil, gas, and electricity. All the utilities in Indiana must get state approval of the rates charged for service. All of the telephone companies in Indiana must get their rates approved by the State. Why not regulate what doctors, hospitals, dentists, and others charge? Don’t we have a more vital interest in regulating the costs of medical services and medicines than in regulating utility charges or telephone charges?

Some people might read these comments and accuse me of being a socialist. I am not. I don’t want the government to pay for the services. I just want some sanity and reason for the amounts charged. I recognize that market forces work very well to keep prices down in a normal market negotiation situation. But, when someone is suffering, or when someone sees a loved one suffering, their reason is impaired and their ability to negotiate a fair price for medical services or medicines evaporates.

When someone needs medicine or medical attention, normal market forces don’t exist. Reason leaves us because we are human and we want to avoid suffering for either our loved ones or ourselves. In such cases, unscrupulous medical service providers and unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies can demand almost any price from us. That is why we need to regulate the prices charged for medical services and medicines.

© 2004 Woodrow Wilcox