It takes a lot to make my head explode these days, but reading about Martin Shkreli, the hedge fund brat who bought the drug used to treat toxoplasmosis and raised the price from $13.50 a pill to $750, accomplished exactly that. While the Times piece on Shkreli rightly generated a groundswell of outrage, it made me think of all the previous injustices in our health care system that didn’t. All the abuses of private health insurance companies prior to the ACA — the dropping of sick patients, the exorbitant premiums for those with pre-existing conditions, the flat-out denials of coverage dooming people to death or financial ruin — were just as evil, yet not as easily located in the scandalous behavior of one unsavory person. Remember this article about hospitals charging $137 for a $1 IV drip bag? In a sense, Shkreli simply puts a face on everything that is wrong with America’s predatory, profiteering health care system.
The Affordable Care Act was desperately needed to curb its worst excesses, and has worked extremely well. Shkreli serves to remind us of the need for regulation of an industry that obviously cannot be trusted to serve the public interest or behave ethically on its own.