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?