We live in an amazing country. We generally enjoy freedom and safety. We enjoy living in a healthy environment (most of the time anyway, although this could certainly be debated some days). We have an amazing health care system with almost unlimited access to care.

However, we are faced with a system that delivers necessary medications at shamefully inflated expense. This problem has risen to crisis level in many circumstances.

Our market system generally keeps prices competitive for most goods and services and is typically self-correcting. Unfortunately, the government, third party insurance, and associated bureaucratic systems keep typical market systems from correcting the cost of medication. In other words, our system does not allow for true market competition in terms of medications. Worse, our system encourages radical cost inflation.

This makes it difficult for all of us to pay for medications if there is any deficit of insurance coverage.

It is not practical, and not always completely legal, to go to Canada to buy medications. Same is true of Mexico. Mail order pharmacies that offer discounts may be fraudulent and may lead to government seizure of medication. So, how then do we overcome the cost of medication?

First, although it may not be ideal, most brand-name medications offer coupons, vouchers or discount cards. These are widely available at doctors’ offices and online at the various websites advertising specific medications.

Second, many pharmacies, particularly major chains, offer discount programs that function almost as insurance for medications in situations where there is either no insurance or in those where insurance does not cover the medication cost adequately. There may be a sign-up fee for such programs, but it is typically reasonable and is usually good for a year or so. This is an option that most people are not aware of and should probably be used more.

Third, this is a long-term approach. Whenever possible, people should contact their representatives about the problems they face with the cost of medication and the limitations on the importation of medication. In most instances, the same medications are available much more affordable in other countries, especially Canada and Europe. We should be able to more freely import medications from other countries. This would then expose our pharmaceutical system to true market forces and in the long term should help bring costs down. This is a long-term approach and is viable only I few can obtain large public support for change.

For now, we have limitations due to the cost of medication. If you are prescribed a medication that is not covered, please talk with your doctor’s office and your pharmacist about options and alternatives. There are often alternative medications that can be used, sometimes coverage can be appealed to the pharmaceutical company and of course, it is worth checking for online coupons and also discounts programs with the pharmacy