I am no politician, I am an independent who is horrified by the attitudes in politics, and I frequently watch in horror as lawmakers undermine things like basic human need in favor of economy and unemployment rates. HEALTH CARE IS A RIGHT, not a privilege. Prisoners get free healthcare, why shouldn’t law-abiding citizens?
Hundreds of thousands of people are dying each year due to our current failing medical care system. If they aren’t being denied care, they are provided sub-par care because they use welfare. Moreover, if they do have healthcare, insurance companies frequently deny services, and many physicians and pharmaceutical companies would rather create a repeat customer than cure your disease.
From personal experience, I’ve witnessed the impact of our screwed-up medical system. Three months ago, an ER doctor sent my husband home with a severe staph infection near his heart, with just a prescription for opiates, despite being told ‘no opiates’ repeatedly, completely dismissing his condition without further evaluation, simply stating, “Come back in two days, because you probably won’t be any better.”
That’s a problem. That’s not medicine, that’s getting someone out your hair.
Somewhere in the last five or six decades, healthcare got off track. Our healthcare system is in shambles. We can fix it. We can provide health care for EVERYONE without penalizing individuals, and so right-wingers can stop complaining about working to pay for someone else’s troubles and screaming about left-wingers wanting socialism.
1. Make ALL Healthcare Non-Profit
In an interview on WBUR, Dr. Elisabeth Poorman stated,
“In America, medicine is a business, and we haven’t approached what does that mean for individual physicians. How do you make the right ethical choice for your patient when actually you are a business conduit, right? There are people who are trying to sell these devices, drugs, surgeries, and treatments, who spend all day thinking about how to promote their product even if the science isn’t really there.”
Over the last fifty years, living expenses and lifestyle standards have increased dramatically. Not only do things cost much more today than they did, in the US, but society also idolizes financial wealth, we view it as a status symbol, and we continuously strive for more… of everything. Unfortunately, we put so much importance on wealth; many people are willing to check their ethics at the door for a fat portfolio, a big house, and a fancy car.
Thus, when kids are graduating high school and choosing a vocation or college, many look to becoming a doctor as a means to financial wealth and opportunity to indulge in their materialism — not as a life’s passion for helping people get better. However, in the same respect, many students also choose to become teachers knowing the pay and benefits are terrible — yet they do it out of sheer passion to have an impact on a child’s life.
So, how do we start ensuring only the truly passionate and most ethical people are in charge of our health? By making their role, one of the most respected in our communities once again by rewarding those who are the best and most ethical.
a) Free Education for the Best Medical Students. Getting an education to save lives should not cost the student hundreds of thousands of dollars. Defer tuition payment for students in medical school. Provide a tuition rebate on a sliding scale based on GPA — the best students, with a 4.0 GPA, should pay nothing as long as they remain a board-certified medical professional.
b) Employees of the State — Medical personnel should be employees of the state, paid a wage based on region and number of patients they serve, provided a regional housing stipend, and given a tax abatement for as long as they remain board-certified and an active employee of the medical industry. Make the benefits of being a healthcare provider more valuable than the income.
c) Cap Pharmaceutical Salaries — Look, we cap ballplayer salaries, many firefighters work as volunteers, people who sell drugs (legal or not) should not be getting rich, especially when their medications are killing thousands of people every year. By rewarding salespeople, you create drug pushers. Increase the salaries of the scientists who discover the cures, instead. This will reduce the cost associated with pharmaceutical operations, thus reducing the price of drugs, and further reducing the burden on the Medicare system.
d) Severe Consequences for Infractions — If they are found guilty of a crime, malpractice, or otherwise disgraced by the medical board, in addition to criminal charges and fines, require repayment of their education as well as partial repayment of the taxes they didn’t have to pay while serving as a medical professional. Harsh consequences for desecrating their oath to the medical profession should be swift.
A couple of things to note here, these students who do go the extra mile to pursue their career, deserve to be fairly compensated. However, the allure of “getting rich” should not be in the same sentence as “saving lives.” By giving them a housing stipend, then the most basic of human needs are met. By giving them a tax abatement, it preserves their income. Also, I’m not saying that physicians can’t become wealthy — I’m just saying they can’t do it by pushing drugs and guessing on diagnostics. Write a book. Invent a new medical device. Cure a disease — Excel in your profession.
2. Stop Pharmaceutical Advertising
Did you know? The United States and New Zealand are the only countries in the entire world that allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise directly to the consumer (DTC). Likewise, doctors are being bought by pharmaceutical companies and trading ethics for a shiny, new Tesla.
The first pharmaceutical commercial aired in 1983 forever changing our medical industry. A British company, named Boots, created the first direct-to-consumer advertisement for a pain reliever called Rufen; and even big pharma felt it was inappropriate. Edgar G. Davis, Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Eli Lilly and Company, stated,
“We do not believe that commercial product advertising of prescription drugs is appropriate… prescription drugs embody a complex set of factors with potential human effects that can best be evaluated by the physician… Therefore, we believe that the need for the physician’s supervision of any prescription drug taken by the patient is paramount and that the potential pressures of public advertising of prescription drugs on the scientific decisions of the physician are both unwise and inappropriate.”
Today, the pharmaceutical industry spends $30 billion each year on advertising costs. According to a report from JAMA earlier this year, “A study from 2005 found that patients were more than twice as likely to get prescriptions for an antidepressant or adjustment-disorder drug if they merely said to their doctor, “I was watching this TV program about depression wondering if you thought a medicine might help me” than if they didn’t say something like that (76 percent vs 31 percent).”
Annual big pharma expenditures for direct-to-consumer advertising has grown to more than $6 billion each year. By eliminating the need for nearly 40% of their marketing budget, pharmaceutical companies can reduce the price of their drugs, making them more affordable, thus reducing the costs associated with Medicare for all.
In our current state — a survey in 2016 showed the majority of pharmaceutical companies (46%) planned to increase their budgets of DTC advertising. Additionally, the statistics on polypharmacy — putting people on more than one prescription is astronomical. Most people over the age of 65 take at least five different pills, many take eight or more! Often, the drugs are prescribed to treat the side effects of other drugs and many end up canceling each other out, or worse, creating severely adverse interactions.
The Death Cocktail
But this isn’t just a problem for the old. Anyone remember the story of Chris Benoit, the wrestler who was taking a concoction of pain pills and benzodiazepines which led to his mental breakdown when he killed his wife, child, and himself in 2007? The toxicology report showed the wrestler had, “10 times the normal level of testosterone, as well as amounts of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and the painkiller hydrocodone.”
We call this… “The Death Cocktail.”
At the age of 45, my husband was prescribed the following:
Hydrocodone — for daily pain
Percocet — for break-thru pain
Fentanyl — for really bad break thru pain
Lipitor — for cholesterol
Lisinopril — for high blood pressure
Gabapentin — for nerve pain
Flexeril — for muscle stiffness
Xanax — for social anxiety
Metformin — for Diabetes
Yet, not once do I ever remember his physician recommending alternatives. I don’t remember them ever suggesting he take nutritional coaching or join an exercise program. They never recommended counseling, meditation, or nature therapy in place of Xanax — and no insurance company was going to pay for these services. And we begged for alternatives to the opiates — only to be told because of my husband’s condition, he’ll likely always need pain medication as a part of his pain management plan. Why? Because they can’t make money on alternative health care.
My husband’s medical marijuana doctor explained to us, that for every pain patient a clinic loses to cannabis, they lose thousands of dollars. So why would they want their clientele to suddenly get better? They don’t, and the kickbacks and monetary rewards from drug companies make it quite lucrative for them.
Current statistics show big pharma spends $20 billion schmoozing doctors each year.
3. Flat Rates for Medical Services
No person should pay more than another for the same medical procedures. Today, insurance companies are charged around 60% more for medical services than someone without insurance. Why? Because 100,000 premium payers can pay more for a service or a drug, than one person can, so they can charge more. Think of it like a raffle.
For example, in the world of sports memorabilia, rather than trying to sell an autographed helmet for $400 to one person, many times, sellers hold a 10-person raffle and ask for $40 per ticket. Buyers are excited because they get a 1 in 10 chance at a valuable item for a fraction of the cost. The seller is guaranteed their money, one lucky winner gets the prize, and the rest lose their $40 to chance.
Private health insurance is like playing a lifelong perpetual raffle where the medical industry will always get the money they want, while the healthiest premium payers lose their money, and every patient is over-charged for healthcare. All private health insurance does is enable companies to charge more for their products and services.
Additionally, by eliminating private health insurance, doctors would regain the final say on what kinds of treatments their patients need. For decades, insurance companies have tried to change, prevent, or terminate care based on things like pre-existing conditions, medication expenses, or other reasons. Removing them as a financial authority over people’s healthcare, doctors would once again have control over their patient’s care.
4. Tax Automation
Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in the US to automation. With the rise in machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and robotics — we are quite literally innovating ourselves out of work. From manufacturing jobs to Walmart self-checkout registers and robotic inventory management systems, low-skill, repetitive tasks are being automated at break-neck speed.
An article in Forbes points out that 7 million people lost their jobs between 2004–2009, and many of them will never recover from the loss. Now, factor in the statistics from a recent article from CNBC, which suggests that 25% of jobs in the US are at risk of automation. So, while cost of living and lifestyle standards continue to increase, we are slowly eliminating any means for sustenance and income for under-educated, underprivileged persons, making it even harder for these people to get the healthcare they deserve. However, until blockchain comes for the contract lawyers and accountants, no one pays attention.
Who benefits from automation? The stockholders — not the people. So while a few get wealthier, the poor get poorer. For every job a corporation replaces with automation or robots, they are increasing their profits while cutting out the little guy. Just stop — this is simply wrong; you cannot increase the profits of the wealthy by stealing opportunities from the poor. Robin Hood has taught us that for centuries.
Tax these corporations for the number of jobs they replace a human with a robot or automation. Use the tax money collected from the corporations to provide a living wage and healthcare for the people who lost their jobs.
5. Legalize Cannabis Across the Board
Cannabis and hemp are critical to the future of a bright, happy, and healthy United States. Whether you consume it or not, marijuana will be our country’s economic savior.
a) Stop taxing income and start taxing how income is SPENT. Collect a Vice Tax — but not just for cannabis. Don’t worry, my pot loving friends… when cannabis goes legal nationwide, production is going to skyrocket, and pricing is going to drop. Therefore, you likely won’t even notice the tax. However, to be able to use ANY recreational substance (alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, coffee, fast food) we should warmly welcome our opportunity to recreate and have fun while contributing back to the community and those who can’t enjoy what we enjoy because of an illness.
Look, people hate working and paying taxes towards welfare services because they don’t like the idea that they have to give a portion of “their hard-earned money” to someone who doesn’t work as hard as they do. Yet, throw a party as a fundraiser, and everybody and their brother will show up to contribute.
You want to spend your “hard-earned money” on vices like alcohol, cigarettes, daily Starbucks, and fast food… great, let’s allow your bad habits to pay for your health care later. Let’s tax those products with a mission of healthcare for all. According to this article, some people spend over $1,000 per month on alcohol and coffee shop coffee — arguably habits that are contributing to health issues like alcoholism, liver disease, and obesity — which increase the burden of medical expenditures. So, let’s play fair and tax those purchases like legal states tax recreational cannabis — 18–52% depending on the state and city you’re in which you make your purchases.
Use the tax money collected from all vice purchases to directly fund Medicare for All. A recent report from New Frontier, a cannabis analytics company suggests federally legal cannabis could generate an additional $131.8 billion in aggregate federal tax revenue by 2025. That’s a lot of healthcare money. Imagine if the same tax was placed on other vice products contributing to health issues.
b) DO NOT allow medical cannabis to be covered by Insurance! As I stated above, adding insurance into the equation is only going to increase the burden of cost overall by increasing how much they charge for Medical Marijuana. Keep prices low so all can afford it, and keep greedy insurance companies out of the mix.
c) Fast Track the Research. Look, we are seven decades behind in cannabis research. Once national legalization is completed, put several research firms on the fast track to uncovering the mysteries — partner up with Israel, and let’s finally get the answers we need. Remember, Dr. Ethan Russo believes that by learning how to modulate the Endocannabinoid System, we very well could discover how to mitigate ALL human disease. Don’t you think the research to prove or disprove this theory should be a little higher priority?
d) Encourage Diversification in the Industry. Cannabis should not be exclusive to pharmaceutical development. Encourage the nutraceutical industry to get involved. Encourage the beverage industry to get involved. Encourage the small-town, “mom and pop,” craft cannabis growers to get involved. Industry is industry, and this industry has room for growth in every sector. More growth — more jobs, more jobs, better economy. It really is that simple, and you don’t need to be a politician to see it.
6. Reward Companies Who Contribute to Prevention
By staying healthy and fit, it will reduce the financial burden on the Medicare system. Give tax deductions to corporations who provide healthcare services for their employees to help them maintain their health and reduce the national burden on Medicare.
Encourage the development of educational tracks for alternative health treatments. Teach people about herbal supplementation, acupuncture, shin-rin yoku (forest bathing), and other less invasive, more natural approaches to health and wellness. Spend time teaching people about the preservatives, additives, and artificial ingredients in their foods. Teach nutrition, meditation, and exercise in the workplace. Bring back the Saturday morning educational commercials like Timer, who has a “hankerin’ for a hunk of cheese.”
Recognize our Downfalls
As society puts more emphasis on wealth and material possessions, we inadvertently make our lives more difficult and increase our cost of living. By encouraging the pursuit of wealth, we end up paying more for the products and services we use to keep someone else in a particular lifestyle. In this case, it’s a physician’s lifestyle — housed in mansions, driving luxurious cars, and taking lavish vacations around the globe. Should we be paying more for our healthcare to help keep up appearances and lifestyle expectations? No, we shouldn’t.
In order to reduce our expenses, first, many medical professionals need to take a personal inventory and remember why they are in the health care field. If you’re rolling into your parking space in your new Land Rover, take a look at your clientele — is it right to charge the sick and poor so you can maintain your 6,000 sq. ft. home in the ‘burbs’ for you, your wife, and your two Yorkies? Is it right to extort insurance companies for more money so that hard-working Americans can pay for your African safari?
Maybe it’s time to simply our lifestyles across the board, and finally recognize that by personally getting ahead, means we are leaving someone else behind.