Sunday, March 31, 2013

Standing by “Bitter Pill”

My old man, Henry W. Leck, shown here in a 1926
photograph, never had health insurance in his entire
life. In the 50s, when my mother encountered a terrible
health problem, my old man was broken like a dry
stick and left basically destitute for the rest of his life.
Thank goodness he had sons and a daughter who
could help out.

A reader, Neil, recently commented on my blog of 11 March 2013
by Charlie Leck

“I take extreme umbrage with that statement. America is without a doubt the leader in specialized medicine. That is why executives and government officials in other countries (Britain and Canada specifically) will fly across oceans and over borders to have their surgery done here. Look at the flawed studies which rank the US far below our socialist brothers in Europe, they include all types of death including homicides and car accidents in calculating the "health care rankings.

I would like to point Neil to an editorial comment column in this morning’s StarTribune (our local newspaper) written by John Reynolds: “Fixing the Dated U.S. Health Care System.” The article’s working premise is stated in the sub-title: “There’s a truth we’ve yet to accept – no matter what system we devise, it will be unfair.”

The Time Magazine article (nearly 50 pages long) that I referred to in that earlier blog is one of the most important statements about America’s health care system that has ever been popularly published. I continue to agree with that article’s statement about our broken system, with which Neil so strongly disagrees.

In this morning’s piece in our local paper, Reynold’s says…

The United States is arguably the wealthiest country in the industrialized world. We spend more on health care than any other country. How can our infant mortality rates be increasing? How can our life expectancy not be as good as other countries?
“The relevant statistics do not paint an optimistic story. We spend more than anyone else and our outcomes are not keeping pace; in fact, they are getting worse. The following helps to illustrate some of the areas of deep concern….
“…On average, the United States spends twice as much on health care per capita, and 50 percent more as a share of GDP, as other industrialized nations do. And yet we fail to reap the benefits of longer lives, lower infant mortality, universal access and quality of care realized by many other high-income countries.
“There is broad evidence, as well, that much of that excess spending is wasteful. Stabilizing health spending and targeting it in ways that ensure access to care and improve health outcomes would free up billions of dollars annually for critically needed economic and social investments — both public and private — as well as higher wages for workers.”

No, I think it is safe to stand with the accuracy of Steven Brill’s statements in my earlier blog. Neil, the commenter, should take a look at the facts once again.

And, the thesis expressed in today’s column in our local paper is absolutely right-on: “In order to fix a broken health care system — or devise one in the first place — the policymaking conversation must start with consensus among the parties as to the basic assumptions and parameters that will apply equally to everyone and form the basis of a system that is as fair and equitable as humanly possible.
 As much as we don’t like to admit it in this country, we must look to some of the other progressive nations in the world to see how we might fix our own health care system – Canada, England, Germany, France, Sweden, and a number of other very efficient and productive systems.”

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  1. Yes, your anecdotal "facts" and rhetorical "facts" have been pushed around by every left leaning person I come across. As a Medical School applicant coming from a family of Doctors, I know the work put in by myself and others in even getting to medical school and am aware of the sacrifices that must still be made in the 4-8 years after college to get the right to call oneself a doctor.

    I do agree that billing practices are skewed against the non-insured patient. No question on that, and that should definitely change if a system could be devised to actually get an insurer to pay the fair amount without the nonstop haggling.

    What you don't seem to understand is the difference in health level between Americans and Europeans as far as Food intake and Cardiovascular health. I've been to Russia and parts of Europe and it is amazing to see how far people walk and travel on foot in a single day. The level of exercise they get dwarfs most people in America, many of whom would be out of breath after a flight of stairs.

    The meat industry in America is in an unbelievable state of affairs. The toxins and super-bugs that are in the meat pose a significant health risk, leading to the death of tens of thousands of people each year from various bacteria related illnesses, not even mentioning the increase in cardiovascular diseases from the meat itself.

    Recently even Mexico denied a shipment of American meat because it hadn't passed quality control standards. A Prison in Georgia returned a batch of meat to the producer because it smelled like window cleaner (the Ammonia used to kill bacteria in the meat... aka "pink slime"). The Fish all over the world are loaded with Mercury and Dioxins. One can directly correlate levels of Mercury to lower IQ scores, not to mention other brain disorders since Mercury can cross the blood-brain barrier. Now if Mexico and prisoners don't want American meat because it is inferior, why should we feed it by the ton to American school children?

    The cause of increased health care cost is the decrease in the health of Americans. Levels of Diabetes, heart disease, autism, and many others are steadily increasing in the US despite all the warnings of processed foods and meats. It's a miracle people in America live as long as they do with the grocery lists of preventable diseases they get as they age.

    Some insight into why this is such an issue for me. In my own life, I was 340lbs at age 18 and slowly eating my way to a litany of problems. No one was there to smack the food out of my hands and say wake up. Something inside me just snapped and I realized there would be no life ahead for me at this rate. Over the next year I lost 80 pounds and by the second year, I had lost 140 pounds and kept it off ever since. I became active in my own health and never looked back. I'm currently waiting for 23andMe to profile my genotype to tell me my disease risks. I don't know what diseases I'm predisposed to, but should something become active, I will be able to confidently say that I did what I could to prevent that. Not many Americans can say that.

    Your passion is good, now if you could only harness it at the right opponent, it would actually do some good rather than being seen as a rushed response. The issue is the Health of Americans not making the frequent hospital visits cheaper to encourage and continue the debilitating behavior.

    Well this is getting to become an essay, so I'll wrap this up. I wish you peace and good health, take care!

  2. By the way...
    Here is an interesting perspective that everyone should read when touting the WHO Health Care Rankings that list the US as 37th in the World.

    Philip Musgrove, the editor-in-chief of the WHO report that accompanied the rankings, calls the figures that resulted from this step "so many made-up numbers," and the result a "nonsense ranking." Dr. Musgrove, an economist who is now deputy editor of the journal Health Affairs, says he was hired to edit the report's text but didn't fully understand the methodology until after the report was released. After he left the WHO, he wrote an article in 2003 for the medical journal Lancet criticizing the rankings as "meaningless."