The United States, “the leader of the free world,” now leads in — to coin a new word — “healthprofit” which uses health care as its conduit for cash. We pride ourselves on delivering the best health care in the world, but that is not the case.
Our industrialized cousins in other first world countries live two to three years longer (Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, Jan. 15). Our GDP is being devoured by healthprofit without delivering the promised product.
We have left our mission of healing and moved to making every man, woman and child a profit center.
Our country spends an average of $8,362 a year per person on health care while other industrialized Western nations spend half of that or less.
Considering our population (315 million) multiplied by the $4,030 per person more than Germany spends on each citizen, the resultant excess expense is $1.269 trillion every year. We are doing something terribly wrong by paying more, a lot more, and getting less for our investment.
Besides costing more, the United States is the only industrial country that fixes a sick person and then drives him or her into bankruptcy. This does not happen in other first-world countries where governments rank people over industry and profit.
Journalist T.R. Reid in his 2010 book, “The Healing of America,” argues that providing adequate affordable health care is possible. The rest of the world has figured it out.
Reid points out that often when talking to Europeans, their reactions range from looking aghast at us to laughing at us. Most of the world is appalled at how we treat our sick citizens.
Reid states that 22,000 people a year die in America from treatable diseases like diabetes and auto-immune diseases. A Harvard study puts it at twice that number.
Scare tactics are presented by the healthprofit industry (doctors, hospitals,manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies) saying that you might have to wait for care.
Statistics have shown that in many cases a bit of wait time may be healthier. When doctors are paid according to how much they do, the ethical bar is lowered; it is a human trait.
The Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic have eliminated the incentive factor by putting their doctors on salary.
They receive the same pay regardless of the number of procedures they prescribe. These clinics have better outcomes for less money on the average.
The overall healthprofit industry put $210 million of donations into the campaign system in 2012, according to OpenSecrets.org. The lobbying effort in 2011 was $506 million, and the final tally for 2012 is likely to be more.
All these millions went to Washington to influence legislators and a president, not necessarily in our favor.
The industry’s effort is to boost even higher the $1.29 trillion in excessive costs.
Medicare Part D ( the part paying for drugs) passed through Congress because Big Pharma made out like a bandit. Our government paid drug manufacturers the full price for all drugs that are prescribed, with no negotiations. Canada did not agree to such a deal and its drugs costs two-thirds of ours.
If Congress had stood up to the pharmaceutical industry, our savings would be $66 billion each year. However, not until we stop Big Pharma from stuffing cash into campaign money chests ($37.9 million in 2012) will we see legislators begin to represent the American people.
To halt the healthprofit industry and return to health care for the people, here are some proposals:
1) Stop the flow of healthprofit funds to Washington. It drowns out the voices of the dying and the cries of families driven into bankruptcy. Challenging politicians to take pride in their work will not be enough.
2) Reduce the amount paid for medical services: yes, government regulation. Germany has 200 insurance companies that are happy to do business even though they are told how much they can charge for premiums and a fair payment to doctors and hospitals. It is called leveling the playing field.
3) Pay for medical school education, thereby avoiding $160,000 student debts at graduation. A student’s first thoughts should not be about money and how to pay off loans.
4) Put doctors on salaries and remove the incentive to do unnecessary procedures. Some say that this may dissuade the brightest ones from going into the field. Many of the brightest are the ones manipulating the system for maximum gain.
5) Offer education concerning end-of-life counseling. Sarah Palin set care for the elderly back 15 years with her campaign rebel yell of “death panels.” The dying population is undergoing unnecessary suffering while uneducated family members control their destiny.
George F. Warren, M.D.
Isle of Palms
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