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Book Review of Kamala Harris’s The Truths We Hold: An American Journey


by Carissa Andrews - March 15, 2021


Book Review of Kamala Harris’s The Truths We Hold

The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, originally published in 2019 and written by (now) Vice-President Kamala Harris, does a fantastic job at illuminating Harris’s philosophy on the American Dream and her own personal political ambitions. It will be interesting to see how the facets she highlights come into play now that she’s the Vice President of the United States.

What was interesting to me about this book is that Harris treads a line that separates memoir and autobiography with a political vision that could offer a different future for Americans. She sprinkles throughout the book multiple personal instances and stories that have a deeply profound meaning. Many of which touch on aspects of the current conditions in the United States that lead directly to hardship for its people.

One of the most fascinating chapters to read for me was Chapter Seven: Every Body. In this chapter, Harris highlights the experience of finding out her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. Her experience is real and authentic, and you can’t help but feel for her and her family.

She mentions, “At some point, nearly all of us will face a prognosis that requires profound interaction with the health system.” That sent a shiver down my spine because in my family alone, I was just five years old when my brother was given that very same prognosis. Doctors had found brain cancer and he needed to undergo radiation and chemotherapy just to have a fighting chance to see his 2nd birthday. Since then, I have had to revisit this reality many times (both with him and with other family and friends), and I can tell you, it never gets easier.

She goes on to say that this reality is made worse by the fact that our American health care system is broken. And she’s 100% right. Our health care system is currently limping along, and there are many aspects that could use some work. Harris does an excellent job highlighting where we could, and should, make vast improvements for the betterment of Americans. From implementing universal healthcare to doing a better job with prescription drug negotiations, she highlights some of the elephants in the room in a way that feels new.

In The Truths We Hold, Harris states, “Compared with people in other wealthy countries, Americans face extraordinarily high prescription drug prices. In 2016, for example, the same dose of Crestor, a medication that treats high cholesterol, cost 62 percent more in the united states than just across the border in Canada.”

This disparity, she continues, exists in drug after drug and it’s all due to our lack of price negotiations with the pharmaceutical manufacturers. Why is that? Harris explains that the pharmaceutical companies have spend roughly $2.5 billion (with a B) on lobbying against the idea of any sort of pricing regulation or bartering on behalf of Americans.

In fact, the result is pharmaceutical manufacturers like Mylan, who raised the cost of the EpiPen (a lifesaving injection for people who suffer from acute allergic reactions) by more than 500%. And because they could get away with it, they also raised the price of Pravastatin, a medication used to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease, by 573%. Then, during the same time, they also raise the price of Albuterol, a common inhaler for asthma patients from $11 to $434 – a price hike of 4000%!

The sad and scary fact is that Americans rely more and more on prescription medications. Harris states that 58% of Americans take prescription drugs and one in four take four or more. However, the statistic she threw out that had the most chilling effect is that one in four find it difficult to afford their medications.

She brings up Medicare, which covers about 55 million people. If Medicare were able to offer the same kind of bargaining power that smaller individual health insurance plans can offer, they would be able to significantly lower drug prices for millions of Americans. However, lobbyists have pressured both sides of the political aisle, resulting in a prohibition of Medicare to do so.

So, what can Americans do if lower drug prices can’t be negotiated? (At least at this point in time.) Harris goes on to say that we should be allowed to import cheaper medications from countries that do. She makes the case that we should be allowed to import drugs in order to save money. Harris even claims one of her first votes in the Senate was to allow Americans to purchase medications from Canada – an amendment that garnered bipartisan support. However, the pharmaceutical lobby killed the amendment.

“Too many of our fellow Americans are getting crushed under the weight of high drug prices—having to choose between taking the medications they need and buying other essentials like food. A that’s not to mention the financial peril they face if they go to the emergency room,” Harris continues.

Again, I can personally attest to this. I have many friends and family members who have faced financial ruin thanks to the lack of health care or financial support with prescriptions. When my father retired, it took my parents nearly six months to get any form of health insurance and the cost of continuing their medications and doctor appointments was crushing.

While I don’t think Kamala Harris’s grand vision for health care reform will crystalize into anything concrete over the next few years, as an American, I hope she begins pushing to make that vision a reality. Economically, many families are really struggling and the pandemic has done nothing but make that reality worse. We need to make some sweeping changes. American families need some relief. And in the meantime, I hope to see more support for the importation of cheaper medications from Canada. Because getting the life-saving medications they need at a price they can afford can mean everything.

Harris focuses much of The Truths We Hold on the idea that politicians should look closely at the conditions they want to fix and the communities they want to help – then bust those glass ceilings. She understands that sometimes when you’re the first to break through that glass, it might mean you get cut. But as she recalls her mother’s words of wisdom, “You may be the first. Don’t be the last.” Wise words for those wishing to lead us on to a new era.

References:

buy this book

https://www.vox.com/2019/7/29/8933257/kamala-harris-medicare-for-all-bernie-sanders-private-insurance

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2020/08/13/how-kamala-harris-boosts-bidens-medicare-at-60-plan/


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