Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: June 13

Published 6:48 am Tuesday, June 13, 2017

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Supply and demand health care

There are lots of aspects of our society that function best when free-market principles are followed. Letting markets decide how much things cost and how much of different resources are made available is often the simplest, most efficient and best way to operate.

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There are, however, some things you don’t want controlled by the free market. Religion, family, morals — none of these things should be subject to market forces, because they are more important than efficiency or money. They’re primary to being human.

If we want to be good, ethical people, the free market cannot take precedence in those areas. We also cannot — or rather, should not — give the free market total control over health care for those in need. When someone is dying and needs help, our first instinct should not be to ask “how can the biggest profit be made?” But that is exactly what happens over and over again in the health care free markets we have today.

The price of naloxone — a drug that essentially reverses opioid overdoses and saves many lives — has shot up with demand, due to the ongoing opioid drug epidemic going on locally, across Kentucky and throughout the nation. Lincoln County has a grant it obtained last year to purchase Naloxone kits, but during a few months of delays in purchasing the kits, the price shot through the roof. Now funding that would have bought around 200 kits will now only buy around 65, according to reporting by Joshua Qualls at The Interior Journal.

This is hardly a unique and new phenomenon. You probably remember when the price for EpiPens shot into the stratosphere because a pharmaceutical company wanted to turn a bigger profit — off a medicine that saves people from potentially fatal allergic reactions.

In February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Marathon Pharmaceuticals took the price for a muscular dystrophy drug for children from $1,000-$2,000 per year to $89,000 per year.

Before that, there was Martin Shkreli, the unrepentant free-market profiteer who made headlines when his company bought the rights to make an anti-parasitic drug, and then boosted the price from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill.

You can go back as far as you want — in the 1990s, the Clinton administration worked with pharmaceutical companies to prevent generic drugs that fought AIDS from being distributed in Africa, where the epidemic was the worst. That was so the pharmaceutical companies could turn a nice profit selling their brand name AIDS drugs instead.

Treating sick people and making them better is an aspect of our society that should fall firmly in the column of doing the right thing, not turning a profit. Sadly, our entire health care infrastructure is based on free-market forces. Barring fundamental transformation of how we think about and legislate health care, we can not only expect, we can guarantee that these offenses to our humanity will continue.

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New design guidelines for Danville

Danville’s Architectural Heritage Board is in the process of reviewing new design guidelines that would change how things are handled when downtown property owners want to make repairs or changes to historic buildings.

As things stand now, essentially everyone views the current design guidelines as too restrictive and not thoughtful enough to allow for creative — but appropriate — designs on downtown buildings.

There are disagreements about some of what should be included in the new guidelines, but on the whole it looks like there’s unanimous support for the general goal of the redesign — to free up members of the AHB to say yes to projects they think will improve downtown.

The guidelines would potentially have a dual effect of reducing the AHB’s involvement in minor repairs and projects that do not alter the appearance of downtown; and increasing the responsibility of AHB members to make judgment calls on bigger ticket items.

The current guidelines are unimaginative and force AHB members to follow the letter of the law — because there is no spirit of the law to follow if they wanted to. The new proposed guidelines provide plenty of spirit — in fact, they seem to encourage following the spirit of the law over and above the letter of the law. That is how we think it should be.

There’s still more review to be done, and the proposed guidelines have several more hoops to jump through before they could be put into effect. But we like that AHB members and downtown business owners seem to be on the same page and are invested in making these guidelines work.