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How Broken Does Health Care Have To Get?

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How Broken Does Health Care Have To Get?

I am sitting here in tears, gut-wrenchingly grieving, as I sit in witness to the slow death of my profession.

First I read this article, which says that this year, the cost of insuring a family of four now exceeds $20,000/year. Who can afford that in these times? And what are they getting for all that money? Thirteen minutes with a frustrated, rushed, overworked doctor who doesn’t have time to listen?

Then I read this article that says that the United States spends more than any other country on health care but only has the eighth-lowest life expectancy. Japan, on the other hand, spends significantly less and has the longest life expectancy. More health care expenditure does not equal better health care. Period.

Then I read this article about how the Supreme Court may overturn President Obama’s not-quite-there-but-at-least-it’s-a-start health care reform policy. And it breaks my heart, because if that happens, after Obama sacrificed so much political capital to try to manifest real (if not quite good enough) reform, the message to politicians is “Don’t go there. You’ll never make change and you’ll ruin your career in the process.” Yes, we need universal health care for everyone and this new policy doesn’t get us there, but it’s a start. If we don’t at least start to turn this sinking ship around, we’ll have a Titanic disaster on our hands.

Then I read this article about how 9 out of 10 doctors would not recommend becoming a doctor.

And now I’m officially in tears, blubbering away here at my computer because we have lost our way.

What’s It Gonna Take?

It begs the question of how bad will it have to get? What will make us stop the madness? With all this political rhetoric, all these profit-hungry managed care insurance companies trying to suck every last dime out of consumers, doctors, and hospitals, every greedy pharmaceutical company trying to score the next Viagra so they can please their investors, all these ambulance-chasing malpractice attorneys driving up health care costs, with all these third parties getting in the way of the sacredness of the doctor-patient relationship, how are we going to heal our health care system?

How far is rock bottom?

Will it take having health insurance premiums and pharmaceutical costs rise so high that only the elite can afford to be insured or take prescription drugs? Then, when all those uninsured people get sick and show up at hospitals unable to pay their bills, will the doctors and hospitals be forced to quit and close their doors because they’ll be unable to cover their overhead without insurance reimbursement? Will doctors start becoming baristas at Starbucks, warning young, idealistic, coffee-drinking pre-med students to steer far, far away from the practice of medicine, and if so, who will take care of us when we get sick? Will we wind up with a serious shortage of physicians? And then, when that happens and politicians, leaders of managed care insurance companies, pharmaceutical CEOs, and lawyers get sick and have to drive four hours to the one remaining hospital, where they’re forced to wait three days in order to be treated for their heart attack, will they finally call off the wolves in Washington and demand change?

Will health care go down like the real estate industry? Will it go down like the banking industry, when everybody just decided to stop paying their inflated mortgages? Will Washington then be forced to bail out the health care industry like they did Wall Street and Detroit?

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities - HealHealthCareNow.com and OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.

80 comments

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12:54AM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

The United States does not have a health system; it has a "disease" system. US doctors are trained to treat diseases, not necessarily to promote health.That is why doctors rarely promote alternative health systems and health supplements. Another major problem with the US disease system is that it has become a money making system, rather than a health promotion system. Most doctors, drug makers and health insurance companies are more concerned about making money than the health of the patient. Finally, by treating each life as sacred, too much money and effort is spent delaying death rather than allowing people to end their lives with less suffering.

7:51PM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Unfortunately, what you describe Lissa, seems exactly like what we're heading towards. And it's both sad and scary. Sigh.

9:46AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Well said, Donna F. While planning your personal wellness strategy (which we should all be doing) also bear in mind that an independent Rutgers research doc as far back as the early 1990's illustrated that even our fresh fruit and veggies off the shelf are so denourished that we actually receive less than 15% of the micronutrients that we should be expecting from these healthy foods.

8:45AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Terrific article and comments! I believe it is every person's individual responsibility to push away from the TV with its advertisements for this pill and that pill ("Ask your doctor if you need...."), and push away from sugar-laden processed foods and empty, harmful soft drinks, and push the pedals of a bicycle, or just walk somewhere for Health. If people think there's no connection between our Food and our Drugs within the FDA, they're wrong! We are pawns in the money-making scheme that is American "health care."

9:22PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

My wife and I are considered to be freaks: turning 66 and 69 respectively, none of us use any medication whatsoever and are healthier than we were 20 years ago when we still relied on "the system" for our wellness. We are very happy to read that there are many others who are seeing the light. We must stand together to get the message out there - take reponsibility for your own health and wellness.

9:17PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

It's not only the US, it's all over the world. Fortunately there are those, even doctors, who are beginning to realise that we will have to move away from a reactive to a pro-active approach, but they are few and far between.

7:52PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

I, too, am a health care professional, within one of the professions at the heart of health care - nursing. I believe that this health care system is broken and has been broken for years. I have watched it sink to the point that people in severe need of health care services have truly been turned away at the door. Health care facilities have struggled after managed care organizations have decided not to pay for health care because it occurred at the wrong place, even when the care spelled the difference between life and death. I knew of a child whose face was mutilated being denied facial reconstruction surgery because the company, in its wisdom, declared the procedure to be cosmetic. What I have seen and heard and what has happened to me, a member of a health care profession, could fill a book. Bottom line: the US health care system needs to be fixed and removed from for-profit, corporate hands before we face a social disaster.

7:24PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

Let's call it what it actually is Sickness care, not Health care. Our bodies are not suffering from a shortages of some patented nostrum that Bigpharma pays an Allopathic doctor to prescribe at 1000% mark-up, that has side affects that kill over 100,000 people each year, and they bought politicians that wrote bills that make them immune from 'wrongful death' suits.
Mother Earth provides a cure for every Dis-ease. Alternative practitioners are the only ones who are taught about nutrition. Allopathic doctors are clueless.
Bigpharma works to keep clients sick, so as to a steady supply of clients.Their nostrums do not cure
They might provide some temporary relief, and need a refill every month. Avoid hospitals, visit inmates ( patients) elecronically.

9:24AM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

KUDOS, Lissa! I too believe that "promoting health without encouraging others to seek wholeness is an exercise in futility. Not until we realize that our bodies are mirrors of our interpersonal, spiritual, professional, sexual, creative, financial, environmental, mental, and emotional health will we truly heal."

Now how the heck do we get the other members of your profession on board?

9:00AM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

The doctor/patient relationship is based on trust. When you can no longer trust your doctor, where do you turn? One PCP is as bad as another, in my experience. Dr. Oz, God bless him, urges his audience to confront their doctors with, of all things, the truth! It took gumption on my part, but I did it. I told my PCP that the last test she ordered was unnecessary! and the drug she prescribed did more harm than good! Lo and behold, she readily admitted that she was limited to prescribing only what insurance covered and that she was bound by what "the science of medicine" dictated. Sad. So now I'm an ARMY OF ONE, taking responsibility for my own good health and using her limitations to my advantage. I've seen changes... she's now LISTENING to me, imagine that, and offering helpful advice, and just maybe I'll be one of the lucky ones who gets better, instead of just feeling hopeless and depressed.

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