Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Next, Even BIGGER, Bubble!

The Next, Even Bigger, Bubble!

The monumental problems facing our health care system have many ominous similarities to the problems that precipitated the collapse of the housing bubble, and ultimately our banking system. This is another obvious bubble about to burst. (A bubble by definition is an artificial inflation based on spending money we don’t have.) 

Frighteningly, no appropriate steps are being taken to avert disaster. In fact, the only step alluded to, creating a unified payer, may only ensure our demise by sacrificing our long-term interests (our health) for potential short-term financial gains.

We need to recognize that this is not a health CARE crisis. It is NOT a crisis of access to, or costs of, care. It is a true HEALTH crisis; a sad indictment of the state of America’s health

Each year more and more Americans are getting sick and dying from the chronic degenerative diseases of obesity, stroke, cancer and heart disease. These diseases result from decades of bad lifestyle choices and toxic environmental exposures. 

What drugs, diagnostic tests or surgeries can fix that? 

What amount of money, no matter how large or who pays, can fix that? 

Moreover, does anyone really believe that if we all had unlimited access to free, after-the-fact disease care we would be any healthier? 

While the symptoms of these diseases are widely treated with drugs and surgery, the diseases themselves are not curable and most of what is done, most of the time, does nothing to alter either the progressive nature of the illness, or the course of the disease towards death. That is why patients have lifetime prescriptions for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, etc, medications, and why they have more and more invasive procedures (angioplasty, stents, bypass, etc), over time, until they die; a protracted death at costs that we can no longer afford. 

As I recently told Massachusetts State Senator Ben Downing, it frightens me to think that our State, which has instituted ‘health care reform’ by mandating health insurance and drug coverage for all residents, may actually believe they have solved the health crisis. Even more frightening is that this is being looked at, and considered, as a model solution for the nation. 

The reform mandate only deals with the symptoms of access and costs.

As more and more people access the system, due to increased rates of disease and increased unemployment, the costs will only skyrocket, and the reform, as such, is doomed to fail. 

Indeed, it already is. It is being called ‘The New Big Dig.’ 

“While pledging universal coverage is easy, the harder problem is paying for it. This year's appropriation for Commonwealth Care was $472 million, but officials have asked for an add-on that will bring it to $625 million. For 2009, Governor Deval Patrick requested $869 million but has already conceded that even that huge figure is too low. Over the coming decade, the expected overruns float in as much as $4 billion over budget.” 

No amount of money can fix this problem!!         

While largely incurable with drugs and surgery, the chronic degenerative diseases are, for the most part, preventable and reversable through lifetime, lifestyle changes. This is where we, as a society, need to focus our efforts. 

To get there we first have to let go of the false notion that medicine can save us from ourselves and from the enormous and powerful corporate influences on our eating and pill-popping habits.
This is a huge societal issue that demands bold legislated public policy initiatives to avert disaster; policies that assist and guide us towards better lifestyle choices and demand more corporate responsibility and accountability.  

We need nothing less than the creation of a cultural paradigm shift towards prevention through improved health and wellness and away from policies and medical care models that only diagnose and treat disease.


Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to know what our lovely State Senator had to say in response to your comments. I'm sure it was some, rehearsed mumbo-jumbo.

But as usual, your insight and passion shine through in your article. Keep up the good fight.

J. Peck

docmay said...

Actually, I am very impressed with Senator Ben Downing. That, coming from someone not easily impressed by politicians.

While his answer was incomplete (the problem is monumental), it was sincere and empathetic.

As best I understood, he basically acknowledged that the reform mandate, such as it is, is a deeply flawed starting point.

What impressed about him the most, was his command of a broad spectrum of issues, as evidenced by his articulate in-depth responses to questions.

The simple fact that he holds open-house, open-forum district meetings shows that he is willing to listen, and that he is open to his constituents legitimate concerns, opinions and suggestions.

He did indicate that he would be receptive to hearing my suggestions relative to public health policy.

In short, I believe we are lucky to have Senator Ben Downing representing us.

Thanks for reading, for your comments and support.