Friday, August 7, 2009

$$ The best legislation money can buy $$

Obama’s push to reform health care is causing the various competing factions to pour enormous resources into lobbying and marketing campaigns. One of the money trails leads to congressional “Blue Dog” Democrats. While their “take” from Big Pharma is still less than republicans, it is substantially higher than among other democratic legislators. Could this possibly be influencing their votes? Ya think?

Obama had earlier vowed to impose cost controls across the board, and clip the wings of drug manufacturers in the process. Nothing doing; the
Big Money has spoken.

With the medical insurance industry fighting hard to eliminate the “public option” coverage proposals, and Big Pharma protecting their “constitutional right” to charge the highest list prices possible, whatever legislation gets passed could scarcely be labeled “reform” and will probably cost trillions more. Where is
Ira Magaziner when we need him?

One fundamental flaw in the current system is that fact that the concept of insurance just doesn’t fit well in the health care model. Insurance is a means of spreading risk among a large enough pool so that individuals can afford protection. When you step into your car and take to the road, you incur a risk of serious accident, with costly damages resulting. Enough trips end sucessfully without damage so that rates can be kept reasonable. If you have a dozen speeding tickets or DWI convictions, it’s only fair for the insurance company to rate your risk factor accordingly, or even deny coverage.

With health care, sure, there is some element of apparent randomness to catastrophic illness, but the odds are that most people are going to need serious medical attention at some point. If insurance companies rate risk the way they do for auto insurance, then the folks who need coverage the most are rejected or charged an unaffordable rate. Many of these uninsurables show up at the ER, and are responsible for some of the cost squeeze and distortions in the system.

Another distortion is caused by federal and state agencies trying to cut Medicare & Medicaid costs by squeezing payments to providers. Those with private insurance make up the difference, and those paying out of pocket pay even higher, because they lack the benefit of a large insurance company negotiating the charges.

A single payer system with universal coverage makes the most sense, because the pool is maximized. Hospitals generally don’t turn away uninsured patients, so everyone has a stake in the system and should be included. Conservatives attack this concept as “socialized medicine” but the costs are there and rising no matter what is done – the only question is finding a more equitable means of funding it.

If Obama had the kahunas to overcome the well-financed lobbying of Big Pharma and Big Insurance, a reasonable reform bill might result. However, the battle is
going poorly, and his political capital is being quickly depleted. I predict that whatever fig leaf finally passes will only make matters worse for the average citizen.

Alternative health care models should be on the table, such as one put forth by the
WAAAM. Emphasis should be placed on individuals taking responsibility for their own health through lifestyle modification. Of course, the present allopathic medical system is predicated on people becoming ill. A tremendous amount of money is at stake on people becoming and remaining chronically ill. If a cost-effective treament were developed that cured or prevented a major disease, the profit model would be imperiled.

This has actually happened numerous times, and each time the medical industrial complex applied enourmous pressure to kill, delay or restrict the therapy and associated medical researchers from practicing, through their lackeys at the FDA and FTC.

One example is the overwhelming evidence that
folic acid supplement during pregnancy prevents fetuses from developing spina bifida. This was known for years, yet the medical industry refused to validate the data untl recently. There is no major profit in selling folic acid supplements, so how many babies had to be born with this defect while the big money prevailed?

There are a tremendous number of alternative therapies and practices that show promise at least equal to costly patented prescription drugs, but the medical industry places a stranglehold on trials that could prove effectiveness. If congress could somehow develop the political will to reign in the medical monopoly and level the playing field, medical costs could conceivably be sharply reduced. However, this is akin to the “when pigs can fly…” cliché – not gonna happen.

One hopeful trend that could happen is the ongoing paradigm shift causing the PTB to slowly lose their grip. Alternative medicine is the wave of the future, and the present medical system is slowly sinking under its own weight.

Meanwhile, people can start to take responsibility for their own health by educating themselves and challenging conventional assumtions when appropriate. There is a wealth of knowledge available for this.


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