From its title to the information presented, “Pay or Die” is a documentary that’s as clear-cut as it gets. This straightforward film pulls no punches in its direct critique of the critical state of America’s healthcare system and the lack of affordable medication. It’s thorough, timely, and will make you furious.
As more and more citizens struggle with the exorbitant cost of health care, diabetics may be the ones having the hardest time because the cost of insulin has skyrocketed. The process of making the drug is more complex than other medications, and with only three major pharmaceutical companies manufacturing it, there is little competition (and rising prices). One of the more shocking statistics presented is that the $300 average price of a vial of insulin in the United States is more than ten times higher than the average for all other countries combined.
Suffering under this system powered by corporate greed, the documentary takes a look at three families who rely on insulin just to stay alive. While they are from different walks of life, all of their stories share one similar theme: they feel their health is being held for ransom by drug manufacturers and the broken U.S. health care system.
The stories are distressing. There’s a mother and daughter that are struggling financially after they were forced to spend rent money on insulin (and lost their home in the process). There’s a family grieving the loss of their son who died by rationing his insulin due to the scarcity and cost. There’s a young adult who had the unfortunate experience of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes during the pandemic. The documentary shows the real human cost of charging exorbitant and unaffordable amounts of money for a lifesaving medication and poses the question, “what price would you put on a human life?”
The topic is similar to other documentaries, but co-directors Rachael Dyer Scott and Alexander Ruderman (who is a diabetic) take a strong, commanding stance that’s not only important, but refreshing. There are profiles on activists who are trying to change the system so other don’t suffer, and there are thousands of similar stories of people who rely on insulin to survive but couldn’t afford it, so they died. The message here is clear: insulin is too expensive for those who need it most.
“Pay or Die” is a documentary that about the unethical monetization of health that is thought-provoking, educational, and inspires action. No person should ever have to face a choice between financial ruin or death just to stay alive.
By: Louisa Moore