Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A828-W528

魏京生基金会新闻与文章发布号: A828-W528


Release Date: July 13, 2014



Topic: The Human and Social Cost Behind Money-Making (Wei Jingsheng's health issues illustrate some problems with America's medical and drug industries) -- Ciping Huang

标题:赚钱背后的人道与社会成本(从魏京生的健康问题,看美国医疗和药品业的一些问题) -- 黄慈萍


Original Language Version: English (Chinese version at the end)



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The Human and Social Cost Behind Money-Making

(Wei Jingsheng's health issues illustrate some problems with America's medical and drug industries)

-- Ciping Huang



As soon as I got a full-time job in the 1980's, I started to use my savings to buy a lot of stocks, especially in the medical and drug industries.  In the 1990's, these stocks performed very well with excellent profits.  I considered the medical industry as a contribution to the human race, rather than realizing the human and social cost behind some of these profits.


I always have had very good health insurance without much health problems, so it hasn't been easy for me to know people on the other side.


In 1997, Wei Jingsheng was released due to international pressure.  He was transported directly from his Chinese jail to America in the name of medical parole.  When I met with him I noticed that he often complained of pain, but it was always only resolved with Chinese medical ways.  In 2000, I was surprised to learn that he did not even have medical insurance, so I decided to help him get a policy.  Then I was shocked to learn that due to his illness and medical condition, American health insurance would cost almost $1,000 a month, which he would not be able to afford, along with additional co-pay and deductibles.  Not only that the insurance companies were not willing to sell health insurance to him.


After several unsuccessful tries, I had to give up the idea of getting him that needed insurance.  In 2001, I found some time and paid for full-scale medical exams.  That was his only full-scale medical check up in the past 13 years.


Before then, I was working in the automatic inspection and control industry with an income more than 10 times higher than now.  My excellent design and problem solving skills won me a lot of perks and freedom from the company I worked for, such as flexible hours and days, more than one month long vocation time, free vehicle with paid gasoline, etc.  So it was not that difficult for me to help Wei Jingsheng.  A couple of years later, when I noticed that his vision had some problems, I brought him for an eye exam and got him some eye glasses which he is still using now despite changes in his eye sight in the past decade.  However, I have not be able to afford medical attention for him in recent years.


His teeth were not doing well either.  The bad nutrition and lack of sunlight during his long imprisonment for his proposal of the "Fifth Modernization - Democracy" resulted him losing most of his teeth in the prison, with only 5 teeth left.


About 5 years ago, Wei Jingsheng had to replace his old dentures of more than ten years, which cost several thousand dollars and took him several months saving to pay for it.  The old dentures had not only caused him difficulty to eat, they even fell off when he was talking during TV interviews.  Thanks to the reporters who did not show these embarrassing moments of him, but I had joked to sell these funny videos to raise money for his medical needs.  The videos are funny but the situation was not.


In dealing with his medical problems, Wei Jingsheng had to pay for his medicines out of his own pocket.  The medicine cost skyrocketed as the stock price for the drug companies soared.  For the last few years, the yearly total of medicines Wei Jingsheng had to pay was more than $8,000, which consumed all his remaining income.  But some of these drugs were not that expensive and should not be that expensive to start with.


As an example, ten years ago one medicine Wei Jingsheng used only cost 8 cents per dose.  It was an herb medicine ancient humans used more than 3,500 years ago.  Even more than 2,000 years ago, its extract was already used to treat that kind of illness.  Almost 200 years ago, French chemists isolated its chemical agent successfully.


So when 6 or 7 years ago I noticed this medicine price went up to 50 cents per dose, I was shocked.  A couple of years later, the price went up again with FDA approval and an exclusive marketing agreement to a drug company which was even given 100 millions dollars of taxpayers' money.  In return, the drug company gave the FDA 45 million dollars back as "the application fee".


By now, this medicine developed by ancient people thousands of years ago cost more than $9 dollars per dose, more than 100 times more than it was a decade ago!  Thanks to the FDA and stockholders of this drug firm, which kind of monopoly is the FDA making with the authority of the government without paying any royalty to ancient inventors?


So since last year, I have been talking about growing this plant myself that people have been cultivating for thousands of years.  If so, I could save thousands of dollars of medicine for Wei Jingsheng and avoid the pain he suffers.  Unfortunately, his hospitalization ruined my spring planting plan.  Instead, he decided not to use this medicine if possible.  But it is not working.  Each time I see how painful he is and decide to contribute involuntarily to the FDA and this drug company for more than $9 a day, I get very upset.


Yet, at least the cost of medicine could be estimated, but not the cost of hospitalization in the USA.  So as soon as the news of ObamaCare came out, I tried to sign Wei up immediately.  However, the websites and all the other support mechanisms was totally unmanageable, to the degree that I think it was worse than what the news media reported.  For several months since 2013, I tried many times to get him the insurance he needed yet was unable to do so.  Eventually, what I most worried about happened earlier this year.


At the beginning of February, we had a busy week in Washington DC.  That was a flu season, when 3 out of 10 groups of people we met with had someone with flu.  After I returned to Ohio on Feb. 11, I got sick with a fever and learned Wei Jingsheng got sick too with similar symptoms.  However, soon I recovered but he remained ill.  Concerned, I made a special trip to Washington DC at the end of February for one day to check him out despite my own very busy schedule during that period.


Wei Jingsheng seemed to have the flu and the doctor thought so too.  So I bought him 10 days supplies of food and left.  When I returned to Washington DC one week later on March 8, I noticed that he had poor appetite and lost some weight.  He was also feverish and unable to get out of bed most of time.  But indeed all the symptoms looked like flu.  So I asked him to visit the doctor again and took him for some simple medical tests which all came back normal.  I bought an air ticket leaving Washington on March 19.


On March 18, we had a last meeting scheduled in downtown Washington DC.  I noticed that he was not as oriented as before and we were unable to find the meeting place.  It also took him a long time to walk the one block from the parking garage to the meeting location in the cold.  We were a half hour late.  He seemed to be normal, but I thought him as a zombie.  


On March 19, I insisted to get Wei Jingsheng some more sophisticated tests to find out why he was so sick.  I told him that my financial situation had improved recently and could help him to get these tests done.  We had more exams that still had normal results.  With the help of the doctor, we were able to find a lab to have more tests, especially a CT scan scheduled immediately for the next day - it was more expensive but I thought it would be good, as an optical engineer who had worked in this type of technology.  I had to waste my air ticket on that day and bought another air ticket to leave on March 22.


On March 20, I brought Wei Jingsheng for the CT scan and still hoped that he was not seriously ill.  On March 21, I went to the Chinese super market to buy his favorite food to eat during my absence while anxiously waiting for the test results.  The results finally came back with the initial diagnosis as a late stage liver cancer.  There is no way to describe the devastating shock I had when I heard about it.  I was told that there was a 8 cm long shadow over his liver.  "Are you talking about 8 mm?" I asked in disbelief.  "No, it is 8 cm." I was told.  That was indeed the result in the image that I have looked at many times later in disbelief.


It was a big struggle for me to drive back and I even made an unusual detour on my way.  I hoped to smooth my mood but was unable to.  When I arrived, I saw Wei Jingsheng was out of bed and waiting for me at door.  He had just finished his last interview before his hospitalization.  The last question of that interview by Lyon Capitale was: "You will soon be 64 years old.  You were imprisoned in October 1979 for writings in which you called for democracy in China.  After 18 years in prison, and nearly as many years in forced exile since your release in 1997, are you still hopeful that you will one day be able to return to your country?"  In his illness, Wei Jingsheng replied short: "Of course, the longer I am outside China, the more I want to go home.  However, there are such enthusiastic friends in Lyon and elsewhere they make me sometimes forget to go home."


I always had confidence that Wei Jingsheng will be able to return to China one day, but at that moment, I suddenly had my doubt and was struck by a great sadness.  I even thought this last interview was very symbolic.


In great sadness, I tried to find a way to tell him what I just leaned of the test results and initial diagnostics.  Instead, I started to talk about some trivial and irrelevant things.  Then I told him the truth.  There was only a short moment of silence then he said: "But I do not feel the pain, if it is late stage liver cancer."  Both his mother and my father died of liver cancer.


After a couple of consultations, we decided to go to the emergency room immediately.  It took me almost 2 hours to reach the hospital in that late afternoon Friday traffic of Washington DC metro area.  We sat in the hospital for almost 7 hours when finally Wei said that he did not have strength to sit there anymore.  I exploded and yelled at the nurses and they got him to a bed.  By the time we finally settled in the hospital, it was already 4:30 AM on Saturday March 22.  I knew that I would not be able to leave in my scheduled flight that day.


It took the hospital 5 days to finally diagnose the problem correctly and confirm his illness, which is not late stage liver cancer.  This uncommon illness only happens a few out of 100,000 population.  The acute illness has 100% fatality when it is untreated.  However, if treated properly and in time, the recovery could be almost 100%.  The doctors immediately started the needed surgical procedures and medications.  These were very good doctors both in their profession and interactions.  But by then, Wei Jingsheng has lost a lot of weight without much food intake.  For several days, he was relying on an IV to sustain his life.  When he checked out of the hospital 4 weeks later, he had lost 40 pounds.


This year, as I became more and more concerned of his health, my effort to sign Wei Jingsheng up for a health care policy became more and more intensive.  Finally by getting up at 4 AM that morning in March and making more than 4 long phone calls, I was able to sign him up for a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan at more than 50% discount.  However, the insurance itself still cost more than $400 per month and it would not be effective until May 1, 2014.


Because he had no health insurance at the time he was hospitalized, there were two attempts by the hospital to get him out, but fortunately they were stopped in time.  It was scary to think what the hospital bill would be after four weeks of hospitalization.  In 2009, I was hit by some car and hospitalized for two days, which resulted in $35,000 in bills.  So the first thing when I returned home at the end of April I applied for a home equity loan immediately, which obviously still would not be enough to cover his hospital bills.


Fortunately, after a lot of work and help from many including Maryland medical assistance, Wei would get the majority part of his hospital bills covered.  But the arrangement since May is even more confusing.  His most needed and scheduled re-exams since coming out of the hospital, including CT scans, were cancelled due to "improper insurance".  Some of his very needed medications are not allowed by the insurance unless he has "pre-authorization", because of the ridiculous price hike I described earlier.  I have decided to pay for this medication as needed but how long it will be like this?


In the latest bills of May he has received, I see that the insurance only covered about 1/3 of the cost, so 2/3 still needs to be paid.  That will be something unmanageable, but for now I am happy that his life is saved and his health is recovering.


For the last a few months, I have been thought a lot of "what if's".  I had wished that Wei Jingsheng had health insurance and his illness was correctly diagnosed earlier.  If so he would not have suffered that much and would not have stayed in the hospital that long time.  That kind of human and social cost was not necessary indeed.  Behind these misfortunes, I see systematic problems and causes in association.


On the bright side, we received overwhelming care and help that moved us deeply.  The sentiment and appreciation from our friends and supporters shown at this time of difficult surely encouraged us to carry on what we have been doing while keeping our good health.  Hereby, I want to take this opportunity to express gratitude to all our friends and supporters for showing your sympathy and help.  Together, let us making a better world.



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Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A828-W528

魏京生基金会新闻与文章发布号: A828-W528


Release Date: July 13, 2014



Topic: The Human and Social Cost Behind Money-Making (Wei Jingsheng's health issues illustrate some problems with America's medical and drug industries) -- Ciping Huang

标题:赚钱背后的人道与社会成本(从魏京生的健康问题,看美国医疗和药品业的一些问题) -- 黄慈萍


Original Language Version: English (Chinese version at the end)









-- 黄慈萍













他的牙齿情况也不好。他提出了“第五个现代化 - 民主及其它”的结果,是营养不佳和缺乏阳光的漫长监禁。在狱中,年纪轻轻的魏京生失去了大部分牙齿,现在只有5颗真牙。






















3月19日,我坚持要求魏京生做更多的检查,搞清他的病况。我安慰他,最近我的经济状况有所改善,可以帮助他支付有关费用。在医生的帮助下,我们找到一个可以尽快进行体检的地方,并马上安排在第二天做身体的计算机断层成像检查 -- 这会比较贵,但曾在此区域作光学工程的我认为这种检查会比较有效和可靠。为了带他去做这个检查,我不得不浪费已经购买的19号的机票,又买了一张3月22日离开华盛顿的机票。




















在我刚收到的他今年五月的账单上,我注意到医保公司只支付了总额的1/3,魏京生仍需支付余下的2/3。这些都是让人不愉快的情况。 但我还是很高兴,魏京生的命保住了,他的健康在恢复。










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