Sunday, August 18, 2013

Are we already living Elysium?


Today, my family and I made a rash decision to waste a rainy day at the movie theater. We didn't plan at all. We simply showed up at the ticket counter and picked the movie that was about to start. Our only option was Elysium. We had no idea what the movie was about but felt we couldn't go wrong with Matt Damon.

Imagine my surprise when I found out the movie was a dramatized/dystopian version of our current healthcare system. Basically, the earth has become filthy, crime ridden, and disease laden. Regardless of earth's challenges, the perfect utopia exists on Elysium, a man-made planet where everything is cured by hopping into a machine similar to an MRI or CT scan. The people on earth are left to die because they can't afford to buy a ticket to Elysium... couldn't afford to be cured. The people on Elysium - secure in the knowledge that they have all the food, luxuries, and healthcare they want and need - can't be bothered with the poor and unfortunate people who have been left on earth.

Now, I'll be the first to say that there is more profanity and graphic violence than necessary, but it was a good movie... one that makes you think. I like those types.

After watching Elysium, I can't help but equate the people left behind and the earth itself with the people who exist today... the countries today who can't get the healthcare they need. I guess what I'm saying is that anyone who thinks we aren't already living that world is misguided. Those who have healthcare and those who are healthy can live in their Elysium and pretend there are not people being denied that which we take for granted.

If you haven't read Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us,... if you've not been refused life-saving (but not urgent or emergent) care,... if you've not watched your loved ones suffer through diseases that are easily treated/cured because they couldn't afford the inappropriately charged medical services/supplies/drugs, you probably don't know or understand what I'm talking about. If you have, you realize the people with healthcare coverage (commercial, Medicare, or Medicaid) live on Elysium.   The people who are not rich enough to foot any hospital bill sent their way, are the ones left behind.

For me the critical flaw, the one hardly ever talked about or mentioned, is the inappropriate pricing of healthcare. The example I'll use is that of milk. We would never allow anyone to charge $2,000 for a gallon of milk, but no one stands outraged and stops pharmaceutical companies from charging $2,000 for a drug that should cost no more than $1-$2. This happens all day and every day, and we - like the people of Elysium - look the other way.