My daughter, age 10, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the age of 18 months. Since that time she has relied on insulin injections to keep her alive.
About three years ago we finally convinced her to start using an insulin pump. The pump is really an amazing piece of technology; it allows an extremely flexible lifestyle – critical for kids. When my daughter was on injections we had to keep her to a very regimented diet and schedule. With the pump she can eat what she wants, when she wants (or not as the case may be). You will just need to take my word for it when I say that this was a life-changing decision for us.
One of the most annoying things about all of this was my insurance doesn’t cover the pump. Neither the upfront cost nor the monthly supplies that we need to keep it operational. So I had to shell out about $1500 on the pump and almost $100 per week on supplies which doesn’t even include the insulin.
We just went to a diabetes event this evening and there is a new model of pump out and it is a huge upgrade. The pump that my daughter currently uses is about the size of a pager and has a tube that connects to her abdomen and constantly supplies her body with insulin. The new pump is wireless, it separates the control unit from her site. If you don’t have kids, trust me when I tell you that getting rid of that tubing is a huge deal. It also allows her to vary the location of her injection sites which will cut down on the scarring that she will invariably get by sticking a needle in her abdomen every couple of days.
Now the popular narrative would tell you that we are pretty much screwed. We need this technology to keep my daughter alive. The supplies are a tie-in with the pump – once we have made that large initial purchase we are stuck buying them from the original manufacturer since they have a monopoly. I’m certainly too dumb to make these decisions on my own so I’m stuck doing whatever my doctor tell me to do.
So you would expect this advance technology to cost a lot more right? Say $2000 up front? Nope. Oh, then it must be at least $2500. Sorry, try $800. Well then they must get you on the consumables! Missed again – they only run about $75 per week.
The truth is there are several manufacturers of insulin pumps, and even though you only buy a new pump every five years or so, they compete aggressively trying to earn the business of this pretty small market. And the customer service that they provide is outstanding. This pump is literally a matter of life and death – so if we have a problem with it we can call them at any time (and this is true of all the manufacturers) and they will overnight a new pump, at no cost, wherever we happen to be.
So to recap, we are using medical technology that is imperative for the health and well being of my daughter. Someone that I would pay any amount of money for to make her healthy. We are tied in to buying a monopoly product on a weekly basis. These are all of the conditions that the left tries to convince us make healthcare so different that markets can’t possibly work. Yet at the same time, the technology is advancing forward rapidly and getting cheaper!
This is the same set of circumstances that we see in Lasik eye surgery which they write off because eye site isn’t nearly as important as life, right? Well, what is the excuse this time? Why is my daughter’s health so different that makes this so different than the rest of the health system? Because markets clearly shouldn’t be working.
But the truth is markets do work, if you would just let them.