Challenging Beliefs about Healthcare

Many individuals have mixed feelings about the Affordable Health Care Act which was ruled as constitutional yesterday by the Supreme Court. Eric Philips aptly expresses their fears: “Obamacare will have the efficiency of the Postal Service, the sustainability of Social Security and the compassion of the IRS.” Yet, with those fears comes concern about Americans who cannot afford adequate healthcare.

The great economist Thomas Sowell had it only partially right when he observed, “It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.”

Why does Sowell have it only partially right? His statement implies that a government bureaucracy in healthcare does not exist already. In other words, Sowell’s statement would imply what many supporters of the Affordable Healthcare Act believe: We have had a free market in health care and that has failed us; although we have concerns about an expansion of government power, it is the only option available.

Those who assume that there has been a free market in healthcare are 100% wrong. Instead of a free market, the healthcare industry is closer to a government created medical monopoly with healthcare providers, the pharmaceutical industry, government funded scientists, government regulatory agencies such as the FDA, and charities such as the American Cancer Society all willing partners.

Over the past five years, in many previous blog posts, I have explored this medical monopoly. I would like to provide you links to some of those posts, a summary of what those posts cover, as well as a selection of excerpts from those posts.

In Conveyor-Belt Health Care I explore the role that the current model of medical office visits plays on reducing individual responsibility:

Here is my caricature of conveyor-belt healthcare: Patients have almost no knowledge of, or interest in, what they can do to keep their bodies healthy. Their food intake is driven by convenience and what tastes good. They claim to be too busy to exercise or to take time to spiritually nourish themselves. When an alarming symptom arises, they have no alternative but to go to a doctor. They wait in overcrowded waiting rooms and are first seen by a physician’s assistant. When finally a doctor arrives, he or she first reads the notes of the assistant, asks a few questions, and carries out a physical exam. A doctor’s involvement in the visit may last 5 to 15 minutes and, on the basis of that brief time, the patient receives a diagnosis. Doctors may order tests; or moving directly into what is usually the treatment phase, doctors render illegible prescriptions. Patients take their prescriptions and feel a certain sense of satisfaction in having been given their diagnoses. Patients begin to define themselves by their diagnoses. They have reduced their identity to their symptoms, and doctors are only too happy to go along with the conveyor-belt medical fiction that a given drug fits all patients with certain symptoms. Patients have their prescriptions filled without any sense that they should be inquiring about potential side effects of the drug or considering alternative treatments. This allopathic model now puts patients and physicians on a slippery slope of further prescriptions to treat further symptoms and then surgery if the prescriptions don’t work.

Of course, this is a caricature; there are exceptions. Just as there are high achieving students and committed teachers in public schools, there are many caring physicians and patients who accept responsibility.

In Do Children Need Cocoa Krispies an example reveals the role the FDA plays in suppressing non-pharmaceutical alternatives:

Now here is a pop quiz: Which product, Cocoa Krispies or Dr. Weil Immune Support Formula, should be allowed to claim that it boosts the immunological system. As you can guess—I wouldn’t be writing about this issue otherwise—the answer, according to the Food and Drug Administration, is Cocoa Krispies.

In A Government by the Irresponsible and for the Irresponsible I examine how the medical monopoly promotes its cures at the expense of good science:

Brownlee and Lenzer … site specific medical studies that call into question the entire flu shot mythology. Alarmingly, they give a glimpse into the power of the flu lobby. Lisa Jackson is a physician and senior investigator with the Group Health Research Center in Seattle. When she began to question studies which claimed astonishing benefits from the flu vaccine, she related her experience to  Brownlee and Lenzer: “People told me, ‘No good can come of [asking] this.’” She was warned, “‘Potentially a lot of bad could happen’ for me professionally by raising any criticism that might dissuade people from getting vaccinated, because of course, ‘We know that vaccine works.’ This was the prevailing wisdom.”

In The Pharmaceutical Bubble  I look at the difference in costs between government sanctioned fish oil and over-the-counter fish oil:

Modifying ones diet to increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids costs but a tiny fraction of the $3360 a year price tag of Lovaza. Clearly, prescription drug insurance causes huge distortions in behavior. How many patients who do not have insurance for prescription drugs would consider buying Lovaza?

The marketing tactics of the drug companies, aided and abetted by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), are truly unconscionable. We are told by GlaxoSmithKline that Lovaza “is approved by the FDA to reduce very high triglycerides” and that “unlike Lovaza, dietary supplements are not approved to treat any disease.”

In Zombie Patients the reliance on expensive procedures rather than changes in lifestyles is examined:

Should we now trust so-called healthcare experts who tell us that more government involvement will fix what ails our health care system? More government involvement?  What has government involvement given us already? How about financial incentives to pay for expensive drugs and procedures rather than incentives that encourage prevention? How about an educational system that teaches little of what promotes health? How about privileges to the drug companies and the AMA?

In Tiger Dust I look at what FDA regulations and bank bailouts may have in common:

Last year, when my children were in for their annual checkup from their pediatrician, my daughter noticed a child in the waiting room who was there to see the doctor for his sore throat. Admittedly, my daughter did not know the severity of the sore throat or the complete circumstances of the other child, but she did know that she had never seen a doctor for a sore throat. She was puzzled why a child would be at the doctor’s office for a sore throat. She wondered why the child’s parents didn’t know what to do for the child.

The Horrors of Socialized Healthcare uses some examples from the United Kingdom to make its point:

One of the most basic principles of economics is that if you reduce the price of an item or service below its market price, a shortage of that item is created. In health care, we see this phenomenon in the emergency rooms of hospitals. It is commonplace for patients who are not paying for their care to show-up in emergency rooms with illnesses that do not require emergency medical attention and frequently do not require any medical attention at all. You can wait a long time in an emergency room—there is a shortage of emergency room services.

Taxol Doesn’t Work For Most: Why the War on Cancer Can’t Be Won  explores the government war on cancer:

In 2004 Clifton Leaf wrote an essay in Fortune “Why We’re Losing The War On Cancer.” Even after making age adjustments for the population, Leaf reports that, “the percentage of Americans dying from cancer is about the same as in 1970 … and in 1950. The figures are all the more jarring when compared with those for heart disease and stroke–other ailments that strike mostly older Americans. Age-adjusted death rates for those diseases have been slashed by an extraordinary 59% and 69%, respectively, during the same half-century.”

The Nursing Home Dilemma  ponders why government funds expensive nursing homes instead of less expensive alternatives:

Medicaid programs that cover individuals with low incomes or disabilities automatically pay for nursing homes. It’s up to individual states to decide how much they will pay for in-home services. According to the Wall Street Journal, few states fund the level of skilled care that many would need. This relative scarcity of funding is also true for assisted living situations.

The irony is that assisted living or home care would cost the taxpayers less than a nursing home. The Wall Street Journal reports that the state of Georgia, for example, spends about $81,000 a year for each resident in institutional care, including nursing homes. By comparison, home and community care costs about $26,000 a year.

The Untold Story Behind Rising Healthcare Costs examines the role of the American Medical Association (AMA) in reducing supply and increasing costs:

Suppose there was an American Grocers Association that was granted power to regulate how many supermarkets opened up in each town and city. What do you think would happen? That Association would argue that in order to ensure high quality, the number of supermarkets should be reduced. They would mount a vigorous campaign to convince the public that the reduction in the number of stores was to protect the public.

But we know what would happen! If the supply of supermarkets was reduced and entry to open a new supermarket was made difficult, prices would go up, and quality would go down. Consumers would have to drive farther to get to a supermarket, there would be fewer 24/7 supermarkets open, product selection would be reduced, and innovation would occur at a much slower rate.

Preserving a Dysfunctional World looks at the shocking case of heretic Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski:

Monopolies produce bad science. The government and pharmaceutical companies fund almost all cancer research. Radiation and chemotherapy are virtually the only type of research funded. The government acts to maintain a trillion dollar cancer industry built on dysfunctional beliefs. In their distorted world, the way things are is the way things should always be. Their dysfunctional world is to be preserved at all costs.

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