Healthcare Crisis – Time to Grow a Pair: Part 2

Healthcare’s An Industry Like No Other

Read Part 1

Healthcare is different from other industries.

Doctors have a duty to put their patients’ interests before their own financial interests. The American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics requires it.

Other industries have no such duty. Their primary duty is to maximize their shareholder profits.

In that context, the “greed is good” engine that drives capitalism at least makes economic sense.

But in a profession charged with protecting human life – to “first, do no harm” – greed is most definitely not good.

The profession itself acknowledges this in its Code of Ethics. The AMA version explicitly states that “medicine is primarily a moral activity”.

Medicine in America, however, has lost its way.

The Oxymoron of Medical Ethics

“Medical ethics” in America is becoming an oxymoron. And a very dangerous, and expensive, one at that.

The evidence this is true is compelling.This isn’t just my opinion. Well-respected editors and former editors of The New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA – the loftiest of medical journals – are on record as saying essentially the same thing.

And it suggests that if ever an industry were in need of tougher regulation, it’s America’s deeply dysfunctional healthcare system.

The Case for Regulation

The current political tenor in America is driven more by the opposing instinct to reduce government’s role in all things.

There’s little room in that movement for nuance.  Nor is there much recognition that there are always exceptions to even the surest of beliefs. It’s the exceptions, after all, that prove the rule.

Our healthcare system is a red-letter exception.

If you don’t think so, take a look at our medical spending.

The following  table – taken from Our Healthcare Sucks – shows how much more our healthcare spending has increased compared to other developed countries:

A Bubble Medical Economy Driven by Greed

What’s our response to this out-of-control medical spending?

Mostly it’s been to shift more of the burden of paying for it it to employees and other consumers. This is done largely via high-deductible health insurance.

This does nothing, however, about the underlying expansion in medical spending.

It’s more like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.

The Flaw in Just
Shifting Costs

The idea behind high-deductible health insurance is simple. Making consumers more responsible for their healthcare costs will lower demand for medical care and reduce spending.

This assumes, of course, an efficient market where informed consumers can make better medical decisions.

That isn’t what we have in America today. And it goes well beyond insurance companies and the lack of transparency in medical pricing.

Patients are routinely misled by their doctors into accepting surgeries and procedures they don’t need and can’t afford.

Doctors often invest in healthcare facilities and profit off patients they refer to those facilities. This has been found to cost up to 7½ times what’s spent on other patients with similar conditions.

This is fraud.

To the extent it’s legal, it’s sanctioned fraud.

But it’s still fraud.

Much of American healthcare today is fraudulent – as amply detailed in Our Healthcare Sucks.

This is a failure of medical ethics in which too many doctors exploit the gray area between unethical and illegal behavior.

And it’s bankrupting America.

Extreme Crises Demand Extreme Measures…

Read Part 3

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This article is provided for informational and educational purposes only.
It does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied upon as such.

John Lynch: John Lynch was founder and CEO of Medical Diagnostics, Inc. - twice named to Business Week's "Best Small Companies" in America. He's since founded MedSmart Members to publish consumer health education publications.
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