Who is profiting from U.S. medical system?
Updated 14:39, 02-Apr-2023
First Voice

Editor's note: Democracy's Broken Promises is a five-part animation series that delves into the myths of American democracy. Through fictionalized narratives based on real events, this series explores the true extent of the power American voters have to transform their society. The fifth episode is about America's medical system.

Hey, I'm Rita Kim. My doctor ruined my life.

Five years ago, I had a headache. My doctor prescribed Norco. Those pills helped. But that was when the nightmare started.

At first, one pill was enough to kill the pain.

Those tablets made me feel pleasant. Every time I needed to relax, I could easily get the pills from my doctor. After all, they are for "legitimate" medical use.

Soon, I got addicted. I had to take twice the recommended dose to stay calm.

This went on for about three years. Then I found the doctor's "help" wasn't sufficient. I turned to drug dealers. Heroin became my only source of happiness.

Now, I'm in rehab. Most of my savings were wiped out to pay for addiction treatment.

Many of my neighbors had the same experience.

Our community Staten Island has less than 500,000 people. But there's one overdose death every five days. People here are getting used to these deaths. Police carry naloxone to save us from overdoses.

Rehab is big business in America.

My doctor and many of his colleagues are paid to prescribe opioid painkillers. The more opioids they prescribe, the more manufacturers pay them. The payout sometimes runs into six figures.

These doctors have another job – distributing rehab leaflets to patients. After all, we are potential customers for rehab. Overuse of "legitimate" sedatives make us easily addicted to drug.

And don't forget the insurance companies. They profit from lobbying doctors to prescribe medicines not covered by the insurance.

All these stakeholders have a finger in this sprawling pie. And the U.S. public is paying the price.

The rehab industry in America has grown 1.7 percent per year between 2018 and 2023.

Revenues are predicted to reach $53 billion in 2025.

American presidents vowed to expand national health services.

But the current system is becoming one of the most profitable industries in America. And we the public are the victims.

We went to the doctor to cure our diseases and save our lives.

But we ended up paying with our health, and sometimes our lives, to feed the medical-industrial complex.

Rita Kim is a composite character based on real cases, representing challenges faced by American patients.

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