Last night, and again today, I was watching cable channels (History, Discovery, CNBC) and I was struck by how many ads I see for motorized wheel chairs.
Nearly every ad includes an exhortation that you, too, can get your wheel chair for “no money out of pocket.” One company even brags that 90% of their sales go to people who pay nothing for their five-figure devices. It all comes from Medicare and private insurance.
Guess who pays for that.
My question is how much these companies spend on marketing? Obviously as a health insurance buyer and taxpayer, I’m paying for those ads. Every half hour, 24/7/365.
Of course, the money spent advertising upholstered scooters and catheter delivery services pales in comparison to the ad dollars spent exhorting us to “ask your doctor” about the latest advances from the pharmaceutical companies.
Which leads me to my over-riding concern:
How much of the revenue stream for drug and medical device companies comes straight out of taxpayer pockets? After all, these are supposed to be medically necessary, and only given to people who need them with a doctor’s prescription. Why all the money spent on general public advertising?
Those advertising/marketing dollars don’t just go from taxpayers to the networks, because they stop and drop off some of their friends along the way. They fatten bank accounts at advertising and market research firms, pay for “seminars” that doctors attend in exotic beach and golf resorts, and who knows where else. And all that increases the total cost of the drugs and devices, which increases the cost of processing the claims that pay for them.
What if we said that advertising should not be paid from taxpayer dollars? How much would we save if drug companies and motorized wheelchair manufacturers were limited to support their marketing only from sales to true free market consumers?
Other countries ban direct advertising to consumers for prescription drugs. That cuts the cost of those drugs in half, or alternatively, leaves more money for research (since US television advertising dwarfs the R&D budgets at major pharma companies).
Besides, I hate it when my television gets much louder at 2 AM to tell me about riding a wheelchair to the Grand Canyon “AT NO COST TO ME.” It completely disrupts my ability to concentrate on Hitler’s sidekicks or the black holes that might eat the earth just in time for the Mayan end of the world next year.
Even worse is the list of side effects for the latest digestive complaint drug they advertise during dinner when I have the nightly news playing.
How about this? If taxpayer dollars are involved, then the cost of marketing is deducted from the cost we pay. Let the networks find something else to sell. There’s no reason I can see for us to subsidize them.