Health Watch - Health Care Crisis

Up to 98,000 Americans are killed each year by medical errors. Some experts even more people are killed when patients don't take life-saving medications. Not because they don't care but, sometimes, because they can't afford them.

Allison Rosen, M.D., from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor is heading up a study that's trying to change that. The idea -- making lifesaving medications free while still charging a co-pay on prescriptions that treat more minor problems.

"In the auto industry, you don't pay any extra money for wheels and doors, but you may pay extra for your XM radio. It's sort of the same idea," says Dr. Rosen.

Nicoleta Shock has diabetes and relies on insulin for survival. "It's like your life depends on it. If you don't have it, you die," she says. With two kids, one dog and a strained income, paying for it isn't easy. "You are either going to feed your kids or you are going to take medicine, which one are you going to pick?"

Now, under the new program, Shock's insulin and some of her medications are free. She saves about $35 month. It might not sound like a lot, but it is to her. "Every $35, yes, helps a great deal," she says.

Dr. Rosen says, "We spend more than two-times any other country in the world, yet we run 24th in what's called disability-adjusted life years." She says she hopes being smarter about how we invest our healthcare dollars will save money and, more importantly, save lives in the long run.
In the University of Michigan program for school employees, there's no co-pay for generic meds, preferred-brand prices have been cut in half, and non-preferred brand prices are reduced by a quarter.

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Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System
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