10 Ways to Reform Healthcare

The health care debate has gotten out of hand. Here are some ideas for bringing it back on track:


1. Study France. #1 in healthcare, #36 or so in cost. What does France do right? After experimenting since the 1800s, they have settled on a system that provides a very basic level of healthcare to all. Those who want something better join mutuelles, which are like HMOs or PPOs.

2. Follow the money. Have a blue-ribbon commission look at all the players in the healthcare system and assess whether their profits are commensurate with the risks and the effort they put in. Where something seems out of whack, don’t attack it directly—instead, make changes to its environment by say encouraging more competition or decreasing regulatory barriers to market entry.

3.  Curb prescription advertising. There was a time when prescription drugs were not advertised. Later, drugmakers dipped their big toe in the water by advertising the drug but not mentioning its name “ask your doctor if there’s more you can do to lower your cholesterol.” Now you can’t get away from the name-brand ads encouraging us to buy an expensive prescription drug.

4. Get rid of cooked studies. When things sponsored by drug companies show up in peer-reviewed medical journals that directly contradict the findings of independent research, it’s time to start going after those who publish dishonest medical research with federal mail-fraud charges. The fact that prosecutors don’t understand medicine is a problem that needs to be solved by hiring some doctors who are also lawyers as prosecutors. Pronto.

5. Reframe the end-of-life care debate. So many people are afraid of euthanasia, but shouldn’t you be equally afraid of spending your last few days or weeks on a respirator with dozens of tubes and monitors and drugs? The idea that someone would intrude on an elderly person every five years to ask them to plan for end-of-life is of course repellant, but there must be a better way to do it.

6. Embrace alternative healing practices. Other cultures have different ways of healing people, and in many cases they work. Encourage unbiased research into Chinese and Vedic medicine, and the practices of Native Americans for instance, and start covering what works under regular health insurance.

7. Stop attacking supplements. The medical community frequently tells us what not to eat, then turns right around and tells us if we supplement our diets with the compounds that are in the things we’re told to eat that we don’t want to eat, the compounds do us no good. They back this up with cooked studies that use forms of the compounds that the propoents of them know are useless. Let’s have some double-blind studies of the appropriate forms of the compounds.

8.  Pay doctors for lifestyle changes made by their patients. We need to find a way to compensate primary care physicians when their patients make appropriate lifestyle changes. You get what you pay for.

9.  Focus on environmental disease. MRSA, a deadly form of staph infection, spreads because pigs are fed antibiotics. Influenza is largely the result of the chinese practice of rasing ducks and pigs in close proximity. All the lifestyle changes in the world will not compensate for bad air, water, food and soil.

10.   Stop blaming lawyers. Admit it: if a bad drug poisons you, or a doctor leaves a sponge inside you, you expect to be compensated. Doctors, hospitals and drugmakers cause harm that could have been prevented. Holding them responsible is the only way to motivate them to improve their performance. The notion that attorneys who pursue malpractice cases are what’s wrong with medicine is ludicrous. Instead, you’ll find what’s wrong with medicine in the deposition transcripts that come out of the cases they pursue.
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