11/30/2009

Cures and Capitalism

There are two absolute reasons for fixing this country's incompetent, inefficient, and unfair medical system: cures and capitalism.

The first is the most important. Modern medicine, as practiced in this country, is about treatment not cure. The entire economic focus of our system is all about keeping patients in the system as long as possible, or until their money and insurance runs out. The last thing a hospital wants is to eject a patient from the facility with cash still untapped. As the current system becomes more stressed and over-committed to this amoral philosophy it is becoming more mercenary and greedy. The end result is that more prospective patients are wary of allowing themselves to be hospitalized for any condition, allowing treatable disease to become untreatable and creating less faith in the medical system.

Doctors, of course, have much of this to blame on themselves. Instead of showing themselves capable of healing themselves, they have demonstrated almost no capacity for self-regulation. Back at that 1950's turning point in US medical history when physicians chose to exchange being trusted, honored citizens for being rich citizens, practitioners of US-style medicine put themselves on the path to becoming poorly regarded and distrusted by much of society. Suppliers of medical devices and drugs have blazed that trail so well that it is paved and polished. Nobody but a complete fool would trust anything said by a drug company CEO about any subject more complicated than bribing a Republican Senator. Their smarmy ads are loaded with misinformation, make-believe illnesses, and the only honest information is contained in the long, scary list of side effects.

The medical system is close to a critical point in history. Genetic engineering is almost capable of absolutely curing many disabling and fatal diseases. Medical device and drug companies have vested interests in subverting these cures while society has exactly the opposite desire. For years, drug dealers have been in opposition to the best interests of society, where we are now presents a dramatic ramp-up in that conflict. At best, drug companies will pervert absolute cures into temporary respite, requiring regular treatment instead of a one-time application. More likely, the drug dealers will just repress genetic research to avoid having to deal with the possibility of cures. So, when science is nearly able to do away with disease, the medical system will prevent that from happening.

The second reason for fixing this mess is economic. The US economic system is as uninventive, unimaginative, and uninspired as it has been since the Great Depression. Our products are inferior and rarely designed or manufactured in the US. Our colleges are overstocked with business, social science, liberal arts, and basket-weaving students and professors and our engineering and science departments are staffed and attended by foreign students. The future is being manned by young people who "just want a good job," not by inventors or creative entrepreneurs. Universities are cranking out people who can manipulate investors, the tax system, and superstitions, but the people who might invent the next energy source, modernize our transportation system, or solve the major problems of the future aren't there.

Worse, much of the nation's great innovators have come from the working class and those people are desperately hanging on to crappy Home Depot jobs just for the insurance benefits. That goes not only for the inventors and grass-roots entrepreneurs but for the plumbers, electricians, carpenters, auto repair technicians, and the rest of the support talent that every technical society depends upon. Nobody can afford to start a business today, unless they are deluded enough to imagine themselves and their families immune to accident or disease. 60% of US bankruptcies are due to medical expenses and many of those families were insured under our current corrupt and incompetent system before discovering how useless that overpriced insurance can be.

The best way to get America back to work is to get the medical catastrophe off of the backs of American workers. When creative, innovative people believe they can take a chance on an idea without risking the lives and security of their families, the economy will find the road to recovery. As long as Washington is more interested in protecting the interests of drug dealers and insurance hucksters, we're all screwed.

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