Medications tend to be costly. The (difficult) question that arises, then, is as to how we can ensure that poor people have access to essential medications. For sure, if special interventions aren’t put in place, there is a good possibility that the poor people wouldn’t be able to access the medications they need to preserve their health. For if the medications are sold at market prices, with no special arrangements for the poor people, then they may be out of reach for the poor. That would in turn lead to a situation where the poor people miss out on treatment for otherwise easily treatable diseases. And if the poor people can’t get treatment for their diseases, it would follow that their productivity would be compromised. With compromised productivity, it would mean that such people would have no way of escaping poverty… They would have fallen into a poverty trap. Clearly then, there is need for special interventions to be put in place, to ensure that poor people have access to essential medications. Those special interventions usually include:
- Subsidizing the medications: the objective here would be to ensure that the cost of the essential medications is lowered to a level where even the poor people can afford it. The challenge here would, of course, be in figuring out who should benefit from the subsidy and who shouldn’t. Take, for instance, a fellow who works as a porter for a company like UPS. For sure, he has a job. On a fortnightly basis, he goes to the UPSers.com login screen, signs in, and proceeds to find a paycheck. But given the fact that he is just a porter, you can be sure that the paycheck he finds at Upsers.com is bound to be very modest. And if he is a temporary worker, he may not be eligible for health insurance either. So would such a person be eligible for the medication subsidy – notwithstanding the fact that he has a job? Those are the difficult question that arise while dealing with these sorts of subsidies.
- Making cheap generic versions of medications available: it possible to find a generic version of a drug costing just 10% of what the ‘original’ costs. So the poor are able to afford it comfortably. The problem is in the fact that pharmaceutical industry lobbyists may be opposed to programs that make generic medications easily available.
- Providing free health insurance to the poor: this can be modeled along the same lines as the American Medicaid program.
- Setting up charity hospitals for the poor: these would be places where the poorest of the poor would be able to access the essential medications at absolutely no cost. You have to appreciate that even if the medications are subsidized, we still have the absolutely poor people – the poorest of the poor — who wouldn’t be in a position to afford them.