Socialized Health Care: Are You Ready?

For the past several years, you have probably followed the news and health media on prescription medication recalls and warnings and been somewhat alarmed and confused. Below are some examples of recent events:

1. A study published in Lancet found that oral contraceptive use doubles a woman’s risk of invasive cervical cancer. Medications containing conjugated estrogens are labeled with a black box warning, because they increase the risks of myocardial infarction, stroke, invasive breast cancer, pulmonary emboli and deep vein thrombosis.

2. The pain medicine Vioxx was pulled off of the market, because it was found to double the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

3. Fosamax and similar medications used to treat osteoporosis (bisphosphonates) have been found to cause esophageal damage and osteonecrosis of the jaw.

4. Popular acid reducing medications like Nexium and Protonix (PPIs) were recently found to increase the risk of hip fracture.

5. The FDA’s Pharmacological Drug Advisory Committee decided to put a black box warning on common antidepressants (Cymbalta, Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro).

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a groundbreaking paper. The study was conducted on adverse drug reactions (ADRs) occurring in U.S. hospitals. The conclusion of this study was very alarming. It was estimated that in 1994, 106,000 people died from ADRs. When put into perspective, the top killers in the U.S. are heart disease, cancer and stroke, killing approximately 950,000, 750,000 and 150,000 people per year respectively. Based on the study findings, that makes adverse drug reactions the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

These top three causes of death are treated medically with the use of prescription medication. Prescription medication could potentially be the fourth leading cause of death. Following this logic, how does it make sense to continue following a paradigm that obviously has such a profound flaw?  The U.S. spends more money per person on health care than any other country in the world. Yet, among industrialized nations, the U.S. ranks 26th in infant mortality and 24th in life expectancy.

How does all of this relate to socialized health care? Pharmaceutical companies have a lot to gain with this new plan. The new health care bill does not fund true, preventative care. It funds sick care. It funds a medical system that has failed to adequately address the health care issues in this country. The new bill will dump billions of your hard-earned dollars into providing treatments that have been identified as one of the leading causes of death.

Combine the above information with the following: It has been hypothesized that as many as half of the doctors in the U.S. will retire or quit practicing once this new plan takes effect. Additionally, the government funded health care will flood the system with an additional 30 million patients. This combination creates long waits and poor quality care. As it is currently, many doctors’ offices offer wait times of 30 minutes to an hour followed by a five-minute visit with the doctor. Under the new plan, you can most likely expect longer delays and less personalized care from the doctor. Less personalized care leads to sicker patients and more drug prescriptions.

Does it make since to invest billions, perhaps trillions of dollars into a health care system that does not focus on the prevention of diseases, focuses on treatments that have historically failed, does not pay for dietary advice or lifestyle education and destroys a doctor’s ability to give adequate time and counseling to patients?

There is no such thing as free health care. The future of quality care will rest on the shoulders of doctors who disassociate themselves from government funded care and move toward a fee for service system that allows them to spend quality time educating, treating and caring for their patients.  The future of good health in the U.S. will rest upon the shoulders of the individual. There are no magic pills or products that will miraculously transform your health.

Look in the mirror and ask the following questions: “Do I exercise regularly? Do I drink plenty of water? Do I eat reasonably? Do I manage my stress load responsibly? Do I have good hygiene? Do I get adequate sun exposure? Do I get adequate sleep on a nightly basis? Do I take time to educate myself about the proper care and function of my body?” If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you are not doing your part.