Healthcare Crisis – Time to Grow a Pair: Part 3

U.S. Healthcare: Extreme Crises
Demand Extreme Measures

Read Part 1Read Part 2

We’ve been calling our healthcare spending “unsustainable” for so long it’s lost all meaning.

It’s taken on a “chicken little” quality that undermines the severity of the crisis.

That’s a problem, because the worst is yet to come – largely in the form of baby boomers entering their highest cost years in terms of medical spending.

We’re about to give “unsustainable” new meaning.

Few will dispute this is an actual and impending crisis. Everyone laments it, but real solutions never emerge.

Instead, we’re handed self-serving excuses, finger-pointing, and financial penalties that blame the victims for not being better healthcare consumers. It’s consumer demand that’s the problem, according to this view.

But demand in healthcare is driven more by its suppliers – our doctors – than by patients.

There’s ample evidence to prove this point, seen most clearly in the wide variations in medical practices across America.

The worst of these are labeled “rip-off states” and “watch-your-wallet states” in Our Healthcare Sucks.  These are states where consumers are most likely to be exploited.

And exploitation it is, in spades.

Your Money AND Your Life!

The part that makes it so dangerous – and that demands tougher rules and regulations – is the rampant patient injury due to negligent medical practices.

These persist more than a decade after the Institute of Medicine released its ground-breaking report To Err Is Human on medical errors in American healthcare.

This continuing indifference to patient safety ramps our healthcare crisis to another level.

It’s both a financial and a life-threatening human crisis – your money and your life – and we’re making virtually no progress on either front…unneeded surgeries continue to proliferate, physicians own more CT scanners and other services that cause them to over-refer patients for profit than ever, and defensive medicine that compromises patients to protect doctors from perceived malpractice risk  is as dominant as ever – even though malpractice claims are at record lows.

Healthcare reform barely touches these ethical failings. It’s  a collection of moderate measures that fails to confront the  core drivers of our excess medical spending. It takes some tepid steps in this direction, but the major control on hospital costs doesn’t even start until 2020.

Even worse, it essentially ignores the unethical underpinnings for much of our excess medical spending.

Such modest measures may have been adequate in the 1980s or 1990s. But they’re grossly inadequate for the crisis we face today.

If this is truly the crisis everyone seems to agree it is, then much bolder measures are needed to rein in these abuses – before it’s too late.

Grow a Pair

Were we not burdened with political lobbyists, stronger enforcement of medical licensing and professional standards wouldn’t be the least bit controversial.

But all this medical abuse produces healthy profits for medical specialists and their suppliers. And for the healthcare industry in general.

We live and die with these abuses, however.

The competitiveness of American businesses – and therefore our job security – is teetering in the balance due to our medical over-spending.

Americans have a choice: continue to lament our escalating healthcare costs or do something meaningful about them.

The most meaningful thing you can do to lower your healthcare costs would be to demand stronger government regulation of a medical profession that’s clearly lost its moral compass.

To ignore this root cause of our healthcare spending crisis is to keep your head buried firmly in the sand.

And we’ll keep paying the price for it with more bogus surgeries and unneeded hospitalizations.

Our healthcare costs are so out-of-control because we consume twice as much healthcare as we need. And most of that is due to many physicians’ choice to advance their incomes at patients’ expense.

That makes it a scam.

We simply can’t afford to keep looking the other way while our pockets are picked by unscrupulous doctors and hospitals.

And if we can’t find the political will to overcome the lobbyists and campaign contributors protecting the medical status quo, we’d better learn to recognize when we’re being HAD by our doctors and hospitals.

Yet a recent study found only 1 in 7 patients is comfortable challenging their doctors’ recommendations – even when it’s made clear to them that their condition has no single answer and multiple options are reasonable depending largely on their own preferences and beliefs.

So it’s not just our political leaders who need to grow a pair – it’s we patients as well.

Politically  Incorrect?

You may note an absence of political correctness here. There’s none of the measured language accompanying healthcare reform or the hand-wringing qualifications in the academic literature.

That’s because we’re way beyond political correctness in our need to confront this issue head on. Political correctness only obscures the issue and keeps it from the public recognition it demands.

It’s long past time to call a spade a spade – to “grow a pair” – before they find an excuse to surgically remove them as well.

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

Let’s hear YOUR thoughts below.

Just remember the three C’s –

keep it civil, courteous, and constructive.

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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