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Memories of the 28th Century

Upsetting the Medical Industry Applecart

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I wasted some time Friday taking part in a group that a hospital was using to gather comments about their planned opening of a new branch, and to get suggestions on how they might improve services. It started with a lengthy presentation that seemed to be designed to focus thinking on a few narrow issues related to people getting medical treatments. That was after an introduction that clearly stated that they wanted to hear anything. It seemed perfectly insincere; they wanted to hear anything, but they assumed no significant changes in the system. As things progressed, it became ever clearer that the hospital was carrying the water of insurance companies, which were willing to accept tiny tweaks that will allow them (insurance companies) to make more money. This brought out even more clearly that insurance is the biggest single problem in the medical field.

The problems in the medical industry are that they are servants of the insurance industry, and the insurance industry just wants everyone’s money, no more, no less. Apparently the medical industry doesn’t realize that it has been taken over by insurance, because medicine and insurance have one goal in common: both want to serve everyone, and the medical people don’t look any further. The difference is that the medical industry wants to serve them by correcting every medical problem and relieving every ache and pain, while the insurance industry would rather serve them for lunch in the company cafeteria.

The cure won’t make many people happy, because it will require medicine to kick the insurance habit cold turkey, and everyone else will have to kick that same addiction. It will be even more difficult for people in general; they will have to admit that they will die of something, and many of them will have to accept the fact that they have inherited diseases that can be treated but not cured. For example, most cancers are results of genetic inheritance. Many heart conditions are also inherited, and the list goes on and on. The medical industry has tried to hide those facts from themselves claiming, as one example, that most cancers are caused by environmental factors, but the environmental factors are just triggers that start the active phase of the disease.

But most of the problems and inconveniences involved in medical care are policies of the insurance companies, rather than being caused by the medical industry. The whole matter of primary care physicians was imposed a few years ago by most insurance companies as a way to make a little more money from patients. Before that people could call any physician and make an appointment; although most referrals were to specialists from general practioners. In addition, there are many lab tests that are required by insurance companies so they can make even more money, but the insurance companies claim that the required tests are to ensure that treatment is appropriate. And many of the tests are required not for the benefit of the patient at all but are required by malpractice insurance to demonstrate that the physician took all appropriate steps.

Insurance companies are sucking the money from all players in the medical industry: patients, physicians, government agencies, manufacturers of drugs and medical devices, and so on. Step one will be looking at the practice of medicine as something that is between a physician and a patient, rather than looking for massive solutions to everything all at once. The practice of medicine is not big business; it is many small businesses, and treating all of them the same simply doesn’t fit. And we have to limit the intrusion of government at any level into the practice of medicine. Government is much too reliant on one size fits all solutions and in thinking that it has the answer to everyone’s problems, and now government wants to run the medical industry.

Next we have to get insurance out of the business. In the typical medical office the cost of dealing with insurance costs about a third of the cost of operation. In addition to the problems with patients’ insurance, there is the matter of malpractice insurance, and that can be absurdly expensive. By getting insurance out of the business we would also be eliminating many unnecessary tests and procedures that insurance companies require. Yes, it would still be expensive for some people to get medical care, but eliminating excess costs would leave many medical procedures costing less than half as much.

But the cost cutting won’t help much unless individuals take charge of their lives. The next step will be improving medical education for the masses. People should know real facts about health, instead of hearing many sales pitches for things that just don’t work, but may make lots of money for the companies that make them.

Updated 09-28-2013 at 07:37 PM by PeterL