3 MAJOR MYTHS OF AMERICAN HEALTH CARE
Because America has the most expensive health care it must be the best. Reality: The WHO recently rated the US #37 in the world in terms of outcomes on a par with Serbia.
Medical technology is our greatest single asset. Reality: We have powerful technology but we misuse it and overuse it driving up costs and worsening health outcomes.
Our medical schools and research facilities excel at creating the worlds finest physicians and most productive medical investigators. Our medical and scientific infrastructure is extensive. But it is controlled by an almost fundamentalist medical orthodoxy that limits our ability to understand and promote health and prevent disease. Medical education today omits whole subjects of great relevance to those ends including nutrition, mind/body interactions and environmental effects on health. We train researchers to think simplistically and focus narrowly on single interventions aimed solely at the physical body especially pharmaceutical drugs. The manufacturer’s of those drugs strongly influence research practitioner’s and the journals that report research results.
The above is taken directly from Dr. Andrew Weil Why Our Health Matters. It is the inspiration for this series of blogs in that it helped me to crystalize and focus many of my own ideas about the American Medical System in a cohesive and credible way. I also see the system as a microcosm of the big system which is capitalism and thereby allow me to critique and propose changes in the overall system without leaving an area in which I have some expertise. There are many out there shedding light on the Military Industrial Complex and one more voice, my own, no matter how aware and informed may be of less value than speaking on the subject of the Medical Industrial Complex. And make no mistake that is exactly what we have.
The US has the most expensive Health Care in the world. That does not make it the best. Perhaps Senators like Mitch McConnell or John McCain would disagree. If I had their health care package and lacked a social conscience I might be inclined to see it their way. But alas that is not my fate.
We have some incredible doctors and some great technology and an almost miraculous ability to treat major traumas successfully. I often joke that if I ever get shot don’t take me to an Acupuncturist. Take me to a surgeon. However, get me out of the hospital as soon as I stabilize and into herbs, Acupuncture and my own form of rehab. But again that is me.
So we can stipulate that we have excellent technology, some great physicians and trillions of dollars going into the health care system every year. I submit that it is ever more tragic due to these factors that our health care system is such a failure for so many Americans.
Here’s what experts from the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies of Science, wrote in a 2001 report: “The American health care delivery system is in need of fundamental change…. Health care today harms too frequently and routinely fails to deliver its promised benefits.”
When you look at the resources that are spent and judge that against the actual outcomes our system is broken and requires a major overhaul. Compared to other first world nations our life expectancy is lower and our infant mortality higher. Physician errors kill more people every year than traffic accidents, breast cancer or AIDS. Doctors Are The Third Leading Cause of Death in the US, Causing 250,000 Deaths Every Year. Unnecessary surgeries, improper medications, hospital acquired infections and general fuck ups amount to ¼ million iatrogenic deaths every year. Terrorism by contrast in the US has been responsible for 3000 deaths in the last decade or 30 per year.
Due to costs many many patients are reported to skip doses of medications. The obscenely high cost of American health care, even to those insured, delays people in seeking out timely and effective medical care. The most recent WHO ratings of health care systems placed America near the very bottom. The CDC ranks the US 29th in the rate of infant mortality, tied with Slovakia. If we do not abandon the myth the “We are the best USA USA!” we will never improve much less make the radical changes necessary to insure that we are able to bring good health to all people without bankrupting the system in the process. And that is exactly what we are doing. We are bankrupting the US, one family, one company at a time and we are delivering great service to a few, average service to many and not a rat’s ass to the bottom third of the US population, many of them children (ex-fetuses).
“In the same ranking of developed countries the US placed near the bottom in terms of life expectancy among people at age 60. In an 8 country ranking the US came in last in years of potential life lost to circulatory diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes and had the second highest death rate from asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Approximately ¾ of all Americans die of preventative degenerative diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. The incidence of cancer has risen since 1975 not decreased and the incidence of cardiovascular disease among women is rising. 8% of all Americans have diabetes, a disease that increased by 14% in the period between 2005 and 2007,” according to Dr Weil.
We also boast of the worst obesity rate in the world among children as well as adults. And along with the fact that the baby-boomers are aging and soon our population will be old and very old, bringing with it numerous health issues that will bankrupt an already bankrupt system. As I write this there are revolutions occurring in Egypt, peaceful protestors being shot down in the streets of Bahrain and teachers and firemen and police, city employees are storming the capital in Madison, Wi. because the system is so broke that they are trying to welch on agreements like pensions and health care and issues of tenure. As a final straw they are telling the unions that they no longer have the right to collective bargaining. This is just a harbinger.
So wait (and not long) until the baby boomers start demanding their Social Security and Medicare by the hundred millions. Lets see the system keep them alive into their 90’s on breathing tubes and unnecessary meds and unnecessary surgeries. Someone’s going to have to pay for all that. Let me give you a clue. Prudential Towers which I can see (vaguely) out my window was built on profits, not pay-outs. And Obama says “the answer to getting the uninsured insured is to make it a crime not to have insurance.” LOL
I repeat that the key is not to force everyone onto a sinking ship, but to fix the ship or maybe even design a better mode of transportation altogether.
And we have not even touched upon the childhood obesity rate which will blossom into all kinds of fun, chronic, expensive diseases. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer. Have I mentioned diet and exercise? Has anyone been listening??? We are walking into a catastrophe, an epidemic of disease that is almost entirely preventable. But you can’t patent organic foods, just genetically modified ones that they serve in hospitals. And if you can’t patent it the pharmaceutical companies cannot become ever more disgustingly gluttonous and so it becomes marginalized.
Drugs and surgery are the only way to health, they would have you believe. In fact they insist, legally that you believe. And not marijuana either, just pharmaceuticals. Marijuana we spend billions of dollars every year eradicating and billions more housing non violent offenders for simple possession charges. And how many billions go uncollected in that we can’t tax it. Efficient market my ass! But that is the result of capitalism in the justice system. Justice for sale. But you don’t get justice you just perpetrate evil. How much more efficiently and justly do you suppose capitalism will work when you’re life and health are at stake?