Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Real Healthcare Reform Requires Changing Our Attitudes

Real Healthcare Reform Requires Changing Our Attitudes

The Affordable Care Act is not healthcare reform. It is a law requiring everybody to have health insurance, but it does not change in any way the way healthcare is delivered or address the causes of prohibitively expensive health insurance. True reform of our nation’s health industry requires a change in the way we view healthcare.

Americans have come to expect too much from the healthcare system. Doctors routinely prescribe medication that is not necessary because of the influence of pharmaceutical companies. Medical professionals order unnecessary diagnostic tests, sometimes extremely invasive procedures, to humor patients or to avoid any possibility of a malpractice lawsuit for failing to diagnose a condition even if there is only an infinitesimal probability the condition exists. Lawyers send clients to physicians that recommend physical therapy, diagnostic tests, and even surgery to inflate damages to pursue an insurance claim.  Doctors acquiesce when patients request expensive diagnostic tests, medications or therapy. And the general public expects a standard of care that is beyond basic – extreme measures to keep people alive at the expense of quality of life.

To cure the ills of the system, it would be necessary to go back to basics. Physicians also need to regulate themselves better. From my own experience I’ve found that good doctors will decline to criticize bad doctors. A former physician recommended that I undergo three invasive diagnostic tests for what are commonly known premenopausal symptoms as well as a follow up Pap test. The doctor I saw for a 2nd opinion said in reading the results of the initial test, advised me there was no need for the follow up Pap as there was a 100% chance I did NOT have cervical cancer. Additionally, I was advised that I did not need any of the recommended tests.  I cannot believe this is unusual practice.

Furthermore, I have worked in casualty insurance claims for 30 years and have seen routine abuses of the healthcare system as leverage to increase special damages to elevate the value of a liability claim. People treat for injuries they don’t have. They treat for extended periods of time beyond what is medically reasonable. They have procedures that are unnecessary.

And while this will no doubt be an unpopular view, it is my opinion that health insurance should not have to pay for fertility treatments and should not be responsible to pay for the extreme measures that are taken to preserve the lives of extremely premature babies. The costs involved total millions and most of these premature infants have multiple lifelong health problems. We, the general public, should not have to subsidize these costs. Infant mortality has been a fact of life since the dawn of man and only the fittest should survive – those that do not require extreme measures. It takes away resources from those who can enjoy a quality of life if they have access to limited resources.

Finally, Congress should enact legislation that prevents patients from suing for medical malpractice unless there is clear and convincing evidence of gross negligence – not ordinary negligence. Recall that just 150 years ago most casualties of the American Civil War died from infection and not the initial injury from battle. Before the discovery of Penicillin people would die from infection after being pricked by the thorn of a rose. Today we expect too much. Doctors are human. Expectations are too high. Physicians and hospitals should not be guarantors of recovery. Reasonable care should be the acceptable standard. And, if you choose to use fertility drugs and give birth to 7 children and 3 die – look in the mirror  - don’t blame your doctor.


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