America’s Healthcare Industry
With the Supreme Court decision on healthcare reform in the U.S. now behind us, it’s time to reassess our healthcare crisis for what it really is.
The Supreme Court’s decision to allow the so-called Affordable Care Act to proceed – unless it’s repealed in the wake of November’s elections – as a tax penalty rather than a commercial mandate to buy health insurance is a welcome relief to health reform advocates. But politics aside, there’s really not much to crow about.
That’s because it isn’t as simple as insurance coverage for more – or fewer – people, although that’s obviously important. But it’s not all important.
After all, fully 75% of families filing for personal bankruptcies due to medical bills – accounting for almost two-thirds of all such bankruptcies in America – already HAD health insurance.
Indeed, by focusing mostly on increasing access through insurance reforms, healthcare reform has largely missed the boat – as I put it in Our Healthcare Sucks. It’s never been more than a bandaid on a hemorrhaging condition.
And that’s because it’s failed to confront the 800-pound gorilla that’s still in in the room – the ethical breakdown in American healthcare that allows doctors across America to blatantly engage in medical practices that violate explicit provisions of the AMA’s Code of Ethics.
That makes them unethical – and yet they’re part and parcel of mainstream medical practice in America in 2012.
Unneeded surgeries, tests and procedures that fatten the wallets of unethical specialists,
Referring patients for medical services in which their doctors have a financial self-interest, and
Defensive medicine that needlessly hospitalizes and otherwise endangers millions of patients every year.
Unethical Medicine’s OK in America
These aren’t mere allegations of wrong-doing. These are well-recognized practices that no one denies. Considering they each violate the medical profession’s own codes of ethics, that alone is scandalous.
It’s OK to practice medicine unethically in America. It’s not only OK, it’s financially astute.
You’d have to be kind of a rube – or a pollyanna – NOT to take advantage of these…”opportunities ” (see “Tony Soprano, M.D. – Healthcare Corruption Enough to Make a Mafia Boss Blush“).
And it all goes on amid the outright fraud and corruption represented by a healthcare industry with four times the rate of fraud settlements with the federal government as all other industries combined.
It’s no overreach to call healthcare the “most corrupt industry in America”. It’s a documented fact.
This is what we’ve come to – and yet most Americans are oblivious to it. And those who are aware of it are either profiting too much from it to object or resigned to this as the “new normal” in American medicine.
THIS is the “New Normal”?
But risking patients’ lives to enhance your income shouldn’t be accepted as normal. It isn’t.
And even the ethical doctors who remain – and they’re still the majority, a shrinking majority – have been complicit by failing to demand changes to these practices before more innocent patients are injured, or worse.
The next four months will be fueled with over-the-top political rhetoric demonizing “Obamacare” as the end of free choice in America. It will be hard to get beyond this fraudulent construct to consider what’s NOT being addressed, but we should try to do so anyway.
Because we desperately need to go broader AND deeper in confronting the unethical practices that make access to healthcare so damn expensive in the first place.
So let’s try to see beyond the politics of it – admittedly a tough hurdle with both mass and social media that thrive on sowing divisiveness to enhance their ratings. But this landmark Court decision gives us an opportunity to reconsider whether we’re really targeting the right things for reform, or whether there aren’t even bigger fish to fry if we wish to TRULY reform our healthcare system.
Because increasing access to a fundamentally corrupted healthcare system isn’t doing many people a favor. For every one who benefits with greater access – the ones we think of when we visualize healthcare reform – there are two or three others being victimized by a corrupted and deeply dysfunctional healthcare system that routinely puts its own interests before those of the patients it’s supposed to serve.
What’s needed isn’t just better access to medical care, but better access to SAFE and ETHICAL medical care – qualities that are sorely lacking in American healthcare today. For this, we need to look beyond the narrow paradigm of Republicans vs. Democrats, free-markets vs. government regulation.
We need to recognize the human failings in our medical profession that both political parties refuse to recognize, much less confront.
Time to Grow a Pair
If ever an industry needed tougher government regulation, it’s healthcare.
The evidence is overwhelming…
Arthroscopic surgery for arthritic knees is so useless even the surgical society discourages it. Yet over a million are performed every year;
Elective open heart surgeries and stent procedures for chronic angina are routinely performed on patients misled into believing these high-risk procedures are emergencies and will extend their lives. For many, neither is true;
Spinal fusion surgeries occur in some parts of the country at twenty times the rate of those performing the fewest.
And these are just the tip of the bogus healthcare iceberg.
They’re all part of a growing pattern of “soft fraud” in our healthcare discussed in Our Healthcare Sucks (get instant access to a FREE copy of the Introduction chapter here). This routine scamming of unsuspecting and uninformed patients by unscrupulous doctors represents a growing share of American medical practice.
As suggested above, they’re not yet a majority of doctors. But you don’t need an actual majority to reach a “tipping point” in medical ethics.
And continued tolerance of this medical malfeasance is pushing us to a financial tipping point as well.
It’s time we wised up.
Worse Than Mere Quackery
There’s nothing worse to call a doctor than a “quack”. They’re very touchy about such things.
But what’s going on routinely in our healthcare today is far worse than mere quackery. Endangering the lives of patients with unnecessary tests and procedures – or putting them in dangerous hospitals that cause more deaths every year than any industry on earth, than any army on earth – isn’t harmless.
More Americans die from medical errors every week than died on 9/11.
That means that on the upcoming commemoration of the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, over 500 times as many Americans died from medical mistakes in that eleven years as died on that tragic day.
So which is the greater tragedy?
Yet the media pay it scant attention and it doesn’t even register as a blip among the concerns of the American public.
We’re so desensitized to it that we pay it no mind – unless another celebrity is victimized by it and we give it passing attention before returning to more “important” things.
The reality, however, is that there are no more important things.
These are wasted lives we’re talking about. And the next one could be yours or that of a loved one.
This is about Greed
Not all medical mistakes are avoidable, of course. But up to half are, according to studies on the subject.
And even the other half are amenable to improvement that would produce less injury and less wasteful medical spending.
The medical profession isn’t interested in tackling this obvious medical malfunction, however. Instead, they’re increasingly obsessed with maximizing their incomes, not protecting their patients from harm.
This is about greed, not patient needs or even patient safety.
Greed drives capitalism, however. So many Americans assume “greed is good” in general and must, therefore, be OK in our healthcare as well.
Here’s why they’re wrong…Read Part 2
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