The “for-profit” in our health care system is showing
Oct 18, 2023
Episode 1028

The “for-profit” in our health care system is showing

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Plus, a Halloween candy chat.

COVID-19 drug Paxlovid will soon hit the commercial market, and it won’t be cheap. We’ll talk about what the change means for patients and the drug’s accessibility. Plus, drone drug delivery is coming to certain rural communities. Also, in one woman’s case, a new pet is just what the doctor ordered.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Got a question for the hosts? Leave us a voicemail at 508-U-B-SMART or email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org.

Make Me Smart October 18, 2023 Transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kimberly Adams 

I love the little chuckle. Hey, everybody, I’m Kimberly Adams, welcome back to Make Me Smart. Where we make today make sense. And that chuckle belongs to

Amy Scott 

Me, Amy Scott. It’s been a while. Hi, everybody. I’m in for Kai today. Thanks for joining us on this Wednesday, October 18.

Kimberly Adams 

Today, we’re gonna do some news and get to some smiles. But first, the big news of the day, of course, is that it’s a big day for you, Amy, it’s the launch of the new season for “How We Survive.” Crowd goes wild. Congratulations! Tell us a bit about what the listeners can expect the season I have not seen or heard from you in like months as you’ve been working.

Amy Scott

I know, right? Our heads have been down working hard. So this season is all about water in the West. And how basically we’re gonna keep living in places that are getting drier as the planet gets hotter. And actually a couple of folks on your team have been helping out Marissa and Courtney have been working as producers. So we’re going to be talking about basically solutions, more than 20 years now into a mega drought that’s been plaguing much of the West. The predictions for the future are pretty dire. Yes, California and some other places had a wet year. But it does not break the overall trend. The Colorado River, which is sort of the lifeblood of the region has lost trillions of gallons of its flow to warming temperatures. We’ve been over-pumping groundwater. And yet people keep moving to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, these fast growing metro areas that depend on a shrinking resource. And so this season, we’re kind of looking at what happens when that growth butts up against the limits of nature. And lest you think it’s super depressing, which of course it is, on a deep level. There are actually some really interesting solutions to this problem. In some ways, I think it’s a more hopeful season than we’ve had in the past and is always on “How we Survive.” We have some fun exploring. I do a bunch of water taste tests around the southwest. I hope you’ll check it out.

Kimberly Adams 

Taste tests, we have to get Kai on board with some of those that you’ve been talking about. That should be done at some point.

Amy Scott 

Definitely, there’s some beer involved.

Kimberly Adams 

Love it. All right. Well, what is your news for today?

Amy Scott 

Okay, well, you know, Paxlovid, which I’m never quite I’m sure I’m saying correctly, but the antiviral therapy that a lot of people have taken to treat COVID-19, you know, super important therapy that has helped to reduce the risk of severe disease, reduce deaths, and hospitalizations from COVID. So it’s going commercial at the start of next year, as the US government winds down its pandemic purchasing agreements. Until now, Paxlovid has been provided free of charge through these programs. And today, we learned how much it’s gonna cost on the private market. The Wall Street Journal got its hands on a letter that was sent to pharmacies and clinics today, the list price for a five-day course will be almost $1,400. And that’s more than double what the federal government has been paying. So, of course, with any healthcare drug pricing story, it’s complicated. Most people won’t

Kimberly Adams 

Knowing the list price thing. Yeah,

Amy Scott 

Yeah, yeah, most people are not going to be paying $1,400 I was thinking it’s kind of like college tuition. Basically, they set a high list price for some, so that they can give big discounts to others. And health plans will negotiate that price down. So people covered by private insurance will pay much less. But you know, for the first time a lot of people will have to pay copays as part of the arrangement with the government. Pfizer says it’s going to give some copay assistance. And the company is also going to provide free of charge COVID or Paxlovid for people covered by Medicare through next year and Medicaid through 2028. But critics say you know that the list price is still an issue. They call it price gouging for life saving treatment and say that the high price could actually lead insurers to limit access. And you know, it’s just another example of our very complicated and, you know, profit driven healthcare system.

Kimberly Adams 

Yay, capitalism. Um.

Amy Scott 

Yeah, today in yay capitalism.

Kimberly Adams 

Yes today in yay capitalism. Well, I saw your story about Paxlovid. And it made me think of this other story that kind of zoomed by today. Oh, wow, that was a pun I didn’t even intend to make, Amazon pharmacy customers in College Station, Texas, apparently, some of them can now have their prescription medications delivered by drone. That’s what the company is saying in a blog post. There’s, I think, more than 500 medications, including treatments I’m reading here from CNBC, “ncluding treatments for common conditions, such as asthma and the flu, and they have the drone drop them at their doorstep, the medication will arrive in less than 60 minutes at no additional cost. And, you know, this is through Amazon pharmacy, and the drones are equipped with cameras that help them identify objects, such as people as animals. And, you know, this is something that has been worked on for years, I was actually just reading about a nursing home in an assisted care facility somewhere that has has been working on having drones delivered to elderly patients in rural areas, get the medications for them once they’re discharged, especially people who might have like car issues or mobile mobility issues. I mean, so, you know, this seems like sort of a oh, you know, doing it just to see if it can be done. But especially in a place like Texas, where a lot of people are really spread out, and medical care can be far away. And I just literally did a story when the Rite Aid bankruptcy was announced the other day, about how it’s getting harder and harder for pharmacies to remain profitable. And rural areas and low-income areas are often the first to lose access to a pharmacy. And so you know, I think we’re probably going to see more of this in the future.

Amy Scott 

Hmm. drone delivery. It’s been coming for a while. I mean, I guess if you’re gonna do anything medicine is it’s kind of hard to argue that but I do worry about like, the, the crowded skies, the potential unknown unintended consequences of this.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, because medicine makes a lot of sense, because a lot of its temperature sensitive. And if you can get it delivered more quickly, in a more controlled way, that might be helpful. Now, I think the airspace that they’re talking about this being and let me go back to this article. I think it’s not an airspace that’s used by many other things. Let’s see, they’re talking about between 40 meters and 120 meters in air in an airspace with minimal obstacles. So yeah, there’s not a ton of stuff flying around up in that particular zone.

Amy Scott 

Although if you’re ever standing on the ground, and a drone goes whizzing over you those things are loud. They’re like super loud mosquitoes. My husband is an aerial photographer. Whenever he breaks it out, I’m like, Ah, the noise. So. But I’m crazy like that.

Kimberly Adams 

Every time I see Sabri’s posts on like Instagram that have his drone footage, I’m just like, wow. Like, he gets amazing footage with that stuff.

Amy Scott 

They’re so impressive. Absolutely. Yeah. Well, yeah.

Kimberly Adams 

The other story that I saw just this afternoon is about this massive investment. The Biden administration is saying they’re going to make in the electric grid, today announcing $3.46 billion in funding to upgrade the electric grid. And this is in The Verge, but it’s a bunch of places. And this is the largest investment to date in the grid, the money, which comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law, will go to 58 different projects across 44 states. I mean, the power grid is in as you’ve done some of your own reporting on this in pretty bad shape. And is specially as we seek to sort of electrify everything in order to make better use of renewable energy and to be more energy efficient, because, you know, climate crisis, it’s one of the things that I often hear from people when I’m reporting on it, is that it’s great to electrify everything. But if everybody has an electric car, or better, you know, they’re using electric stoves instead of gas, our grid can’t necessarily handle all of that additional demand for electricity. The way it’s set up now, and so this is pretty necessary investment. But it’ll be interesting to see how it gets rolled out.

Amy Scott 

Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it seems like good, good news on the face of it. Definitely not the beginning. And cleaner grid. Yes, we need it. I’ve been so wanting to get like solar batteries for the house. I mean, we you know, we’ve like anyone probably in this country, we’ve experienced our share of blackouts. And yeah, that’s not fun.

Kimberly Adams 

You know, knock on wood, I actually don’t get all that many blackouts in DC because I’m pretty close to a lot of government offices. And so a nation’s capital and just having our government.

Amy Scott

Seat of power.

Kimberly Adams

eah, the seat of power and having a lot of government infrastructure kind of scattered throughout the city that often has security needs. They they’re pretty good about sense keeping the lights on. I mean, sometimes, you know, trees will come down and knock out, you know, wires and things. But for the most part, it’s pretty, it’s pretty solid. And I’m in a part of the city where I think they’ve buried the lines anyway. So okay, let us do some smiles. So I was on the road a lot of today. And so, our Washington DC intern Maya flagged this story for me, and I also saw it that one of the listeners have posted it online. Jonathan in Iowa flagged this as well. And this is a wonderful story that truly warmed my heart. So there was a woman in Virginia, who was feeling a little low. She was feeling low because not a little low. She was feeling a lot of low because her cat died, as you know, one does. And, you know, she went to her doctor and the doctor was checking on her and a lot of times doctors will also ask you about your mental health, you know, in the course of the regular checkup, and I’m just going to read what this says. ”I was really going through a bad time,” she told her doctor during an appointment in September. “King mentioned that she should think about getting a new cat. When her checkup was over. He handed her a printed summary of the appointment with instructions to get a high dose flu shot in October, and a Coronavirus shot in November, then Sipes the woman’s name, her eyes lingered at the item on the top of the list, ‘get a cat’ the doctor wrote”. The doctor literally wrote her prescription to get a new cat. Because you know he was when the Washington Post interviewed him. He said, you know, that he knew he knew the studies showing that pets can improve a person’s mental health and help older adults and other people cope with feelings of loneliness and he himself had a lot of experience with animals and knew that they were warm and fuzzy. This story really struck me because I had a cat that I brought with me back from Egypt when I moved back to the United States. And when that cat died, I was so devastated. And I was talking to my therapist at the time about it and she was just like, get a new cat. I was just like, I can’t possibly get a new cat he just died and she’s like, “get a new cat.”

Amy Scott 

But it’s the doctor’s orders you have to.

Kimberly Adams 

She said it’s my professional opinion that it is okay for you to get a new cat a new cat will make you feel better and that’s how I got Jasper.

Amy Scott 

Oh goodness and Jasper everyone knows how great Jasper is. Jasper’s yeah, I mean it’s not like you can replace the last animal but there is something about being around a cat that’s. Unless you’re allergic and then maybe the prescription would read get a goldfish or something else.

Kimberly Adams 

Or an you know hyper allergenic cat that is.

Amy Scott 

Yeah a hairless cat. Those are real cute. Marissa Cabrera sent me this one and thank you. Gosh, it’s been a heavy couple of days.

Kimberly Adams

It’s so hard to find good news.

Amy Scott

Yeah, we need our smiles right now. I mean, like sort of why this segment exists, right? So she she sent me the top 10 Halloween candies according to Instacart. Though I am curious I have to say, how people who get their Halloween candy delivered might skew the results. No judgment. I’m just wondering if it’s like different than it might be for those of us who walk to the Walgreens and pick them up anyway. The top, the number one won’t surprise anyone Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I think it’s always in the top three. Peanut M&M’s, regular M&Ms, Tootsie Pops that one kind of surprised me,Twizzlers, Hershey’s milk chocolate, Sour Patch Kids, candy corn, KitKat. And finally a number 10: Starburst. So I don’t know.

Kimberly Adams

I’m surprised Twix isn’t on there.

Amy Scott

That’s what I said. I was going to ask you what’s missing. Twix, maybe Nestle Crunch. I feel like that shows up in a lot of pumpkins.

Kimberly Adams

I don’t really like those.

Amy Scott

Oh really? You know what, you can also look on Instacart by zip code to see what’s popular in your neighborhood. And you know what’s so funny, Tootsie Rolls are popular in my neighborhood. Which I just can’t subscribe to.

Kimberly Adams 

I love that. It was funny when I saw Tootsie Pops on the list because when I was growing up that’s such a common thing. And I look at this map and sure enough for Missouri Tootsie Pops is the number one.

Amy Scott

Oh, there you go.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, here in DC it’s Snickers just interesting.

Amy Scott 

Oh that is interesting. Not a bad candy bar.

Kimberly Adams 

In Georgia, it’s Trolli gummy candy.

Amy Scott 

I don’t even know what that is.

Kimberly Adams 

Oh my gosh Georgia is Dum Dums. Trolli it’s like they’re either gummy bears or gummy rings or sour things. It’s like a different

Amy Scott 

Apparently I don’t spend enough time in Georgia.

Kimberly Adams 

Clearly. Dum Dums are the number one candy and in Florida. Jokes make themselves. Ferrer Rocher hazelnut chocolate in Texas, which is so fancy. I love that. Who’s handing out for rochet here hazelnut chocolates in Texas. Wow. That’s pretty high end.

Amy Scott 

Is that like statewide? That does seem surprising. Fancy

Kimberly Adams 

And also in Hawaii. Okay. Love it. Love it.

Amy Scott 

Hmm, okay. Well, I’m sticking with it. love peanut butter cups. They don’t have to be Reese’s I’m brand agnostic.

Kimberly Adams 

Yes, apologies to everybody in Florida. I’m sure that the Dum Dums are delicious. All right, that is it for us today. I’m gonna be back tomorrow with Sam Fields and if there’s a story that you heard this week, especially if it has a great piece of audio attached to it, and you think we should include it in our Thursday show. Go ahead and send it over we are at makemesmart@marketplace.org. Also at 508 the letter U and the letter B. Did that for you Amy.

Amy Scott 

Thank you. Make Me Smart is produced by Courtney Bergsieker. Ellen Rolfes writes our newsletter. Today’s program was engineered by Drew Jostad. Our intern is Niloufar Shahbandi.

Kimberly Adams 

Ben Tolliday and Daniel Ramirez composed our theme music. Our senior producers Marissa Cabrera. Bridget Bodnar is the director of podcasts. Francesca Levy is the executive director of Digital. Have you bought your candy yet Amy?

Amy Scott 

Oh, I don’t think so. I have to ask Alex. He’s the shopper in our family.

Kimberly Adams 

Nice.

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