The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


My father was one of the most generous people who ever lived on this planet.  He would help out anyone if it were within his power, whether or not he knew or liked the person.  I guess in today’s parlance, you would call him a chump.

I don’t know how many times he and I were out walking and a “bum” would ask him for a hand out.  Dad never refused one of these men the change he had on him – or if he had none, a small bill or two.

His generosity extended to everything he did – how he treated his employees and how he contributed to charities in which he believed.  Although he did not subscribe to the tenets of the Salvation Army, he always made a point of dropping a five or ten dollar bill in their red kettles during the Christmas Season.  As he pointed out, “During the Great Depression, they were the only organization that would give away free donuts to those who needed something to eat.  The only one.”

I offer this not as a paean to my father but to put in context something that he said many times.  It was the reason that he refused to give money to “charities” whose work consisted of trying to eradicate some particular disease.

When asked by a friend if dad contributed to The American Cancer Society, he replied with an emphatic, “Absolutely not.  If they actually found the cure for cancer, they would suppress it.  There are too many people who make a living from fund raising for them ever to let that cure be released to the world.”

Now that may sound cynical to you – but if you stop to think about it for a minute one thing should be very clear – particularly in light of all the conversation centered around Obamacare.  We know that the health care industry represents approximately one sixth of our economy.  That includes doctors, dentists, hospitals, medical equipment manufacturers, pharmacists and, of course, prescription and non-prescription drugs.  And as large as it is now, it can only grow bigger under Obamacare as we add a new layer of bureaucrats to try to mis-manage it further

If you’ve read this blog for any period of time you realize that I normally reference “health care” under the more accurate name “disease maintenance”.  Put another way, our drug-therapy-centric system merely ameliorates the symptoms that our various maladies cause.  Ninety percent of our drugs treat symptoms (sometimes with devastating side effects) but do nothing to correct the underlying physical condition.  If you question the truth of that statement ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Since we have classified so many different forms of cancer, let me offer the easier example of diabetes to illustrate my point.

We know that in the U. S. we have an outbreak of diabetes which is nearing (and will soon reach) epidemic proportions.  To call this a plague is not to over-exaggerate.  We also know that the adult version of this disease, Type II, most often results from the dietary choices we make throughout our growing years and our adult lives.

This is a crippling and a chronic illness.  It has significant implications for those who allow it to go uncontrolled which may result in amputations, blindness and nearly always has severe impacts on cardio-vascular health (another chronic illness).  So how do we deal with treatment for those who have been diagnosed with Type II diabetes?

Is our emphasis on educating these patients on the foods which they should be eating and those which they are to avoid?  Yes.  That’s about ten per cent of our treatment.  But ninety percent of our treatment is establishing them on a regimen of blood monitoring and dispensing insulin to control their condition.

The medical industry doesn’t make a lot of money selling its patients on the idea of going to the grocery store and loading up on fruits and vegetables.  In fact, it makes none.  But it does make a lot of money selling blood glucose monitors and diabetic supplies.

The following is what the American Diabetes Association (ADA ) has to say about this disease:

The total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 is $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity. The largest components of medical expenditures are hospital inpatient care (43% of the total medical cost), prescription medications to treat the complications of diabetes (18%), anti-diabetic agents and diabetes supplies (12%), physician office visits (9%), and nursing/residential facility stays (8%). People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes. People with diagnosed diabetes, on average, have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes. For the cost categories analyzed, care for people with diagnosed diabetes accounts for more than 1 in 5 health care dollars in the U.S., and more than half of that expenditure is directly attributable to diabetes.

If the ADA’s analysis is correct, last year we spent over $52 Billion as a nation on prescription medicines to “treat the complications of diabetes” and on anti-diabetic agents and diabetes supplies.  That, by virtually anyone’s standards, is a lot of money – spread over a lot of companies that manufacture and distribute these products and which support a lot of people who are their employees.

Where is the incentive for our medical professionals to cure this disease when those who treat patients with diabetes collectively earned $20 Billion last year in office visits from those who suffer from this malady?  Or for our hospitals to do all within their power to eradicate this disease which earned them revenues of over $75 Billion?

This isn’t a matter of rejecting the common logic and practice of medicine as we find it in this country.  This is merely a matter of applying common sense to a nonsensical way in which we treat disease and asking, “Why would ‘health care professionals’ pursue a path that does not cure but merely ameliorates the symptomology of a disease?”  If you can find an answer to that question that is something other than “money” or sheer ignorance, please share it with me.

In all fairness to our doctors and others in our medical establishment who are devoted to providing quality patient care and who make that their first priority, I believe it is only honest to say that even if they were to get on my bandwagon and to  insist that their diabetic patients observed a life style and eating regimen that might resolve this medical condition, it is likely that only a small percentage would do so.

We have developed a mind set of entitlement and immediate gratification.  We pop a pill to lose weight or so that we can achieve an erection and we smear our faces with creams that we hope will take years off our appearance.  And the drug and cosmetics industries, recognizing our weakness, feed our human frailty with “newer and bigger and faster and more effective” products to satisfy our laziness and vainglory.

Perhaps, even if for all the wrong reasons, the country is beginning to wake up to the perils that Obamacare presents.  Perhaps there is a stirring among at least a few of us that we do not have trust in the government to make wise decisions about our health care and that ultimately the responsibility for staying in good health falls neither to the bureaucrats nor to our doctors but is ours and ours alone – because we are the only “me” that is now, has been or ever will be on this planet.

Perhaps, something good will come out of our objection to Obamacare.  Hopefully, it will be an awakening that the individual has responsibility for his own life and his own actions and will not allow an impersonal government to make decisions which rightly belong to each of us and to each of us alone.

If that were to occur to enough people it might start a revolution of thought and action which would make the Founding Fathers  proud of the great experiment that they set in motion nearly two hundred fifty years ago.


Comments on: "THE CURE FOR CANCER" (8)

  1. Which circles back to the earlier discussion regarding the use of drugs (i.e., non-users/users/addicts). These are choices (whether food, drugs, or lifestyle) that can seriously impact not only an individual’s health, wealth, and general well-being…but also creates an additional burden that has to be carried by the general populace. So the general question is: How does a community, state or country cope with a growing conflict between an individual’s freedom of choice, and the growing cost of supporting the rise of individuals whose choices are beginning to pull the wagon over a cliff?

    If you were in the drivers seat (instead of Obama), what would you do? For example: 1) what law(s) would you pass to put an end to avarice in the medical profession? 2) What restraints would you enact to reign in an individual’s right to ruin his or her health due to lifestyle choices? 3) What would you do to strip corporations of any profit gained from products or services that encourage an individual to make unhealthy choices?

    For some reason I’m reminded of Lady Bird Johnson’s determination to clean up and bring to an end the littering of the country’s highways and backroads. Something that she (with the help of many others) effectively accomplished in less than five years, and with very little ‘law’ involved. Yes, signs went up saying you would be fined for littering, but of course that was for show more than anything else, as it was almost impossible to enforce. Instead the emphasis was on ‘breaking the habit’ by fueling a growing sense of self-responsibility. And it worked. Just food for thought…

    • It’s funny that you referred to Lady Bird Johnson’s, “Beautify America” campaign. The only thing that I really remember about it was that the USPS issued a few stamps to commemorate its launch and the joke, “How do we beautify America”? A. “Sterilize Lady Bird Johnson.” But on a serious note …

      The fundamental principle of libertarianism is that it is the individual and only the individual who has the right to determine what is in his or her own interest and to act accordingly. BUT – when that individual makes choices that have adverse impacts on any other individual or society in general, it is not only the right but the responsibility of those who are affected by those choices to intervene. Therefore, passing laws to control individual behavior should be the exception rather than the norm. When we have a situation, such as the explosion in diabetes for which everyone pays (voluntarily or otherwise), we have just such a case.

      The term “explosion” might prove useful in understanding why so many Americans have developed diabetes. We know that a terrorist bomber doesn’t throw together a bunch of chemicals and hope that the result will be the destruction of a building. Those chemicals are combined because he knows that put together properly they will result in a specific outcome – namely, the destruction of property and people.

      Both the CDC and NIH have made statements (which are not nearly aggressive enough but at least they are on the record) for saying that refined white sugar is a “significant contributor to overweight, obesity and diabetes.” If these conditions are epidemic then it would make sense to encourage behavior that either reduces or eliminates our consumption of this substance. How do we do that – if we are serious about really preventing a series of diseases that consumes a significant portion of our healthcare expenditures?

      The first thing I would do, based on the CDC and NIH reports as well as hundreds of other studies, is to reclassify carbonated beverages (pop or soda) as non-food items. That would allow states which exempt food from sales tax to collect it on sodas. It would also eliminate their purchase as a qualifying item from our food assistance programs. I would also place a Federal excise tax on each serving of twenty-five cents which could only be used in programs which seek to educate people about healthcare issues.

      Next, just as we did with tobacco products, I would prohibit any advertising for soft drinks whether in print, radio, television, or on billboards. I would, again following the example of tobacco, require that each can or bottle contained a health care warning about continued use of the product over long periods of time.

      I would also eliminate the soda option as a lunchtime beverage choice in our public schools.

      Frankly, there is a tremendous amount of poison which flows through our food supply. We eat all sorts of processed foods which contribute to our ill health. I have a simple rule that if a product which I’m considering purchasing has ingredients listed which I have difficulty pronouncing I will not buy it.

      It is obvious that food processors and manufacturers did not go purposely out of their way to create products whose consumption will result in early death or a lifetime of chronic disease. They merely responded to our changing lifestyles and our desire to get it bigger, faster and more conveniently. And if we bought in to that philosophy, taking the quick route to eat rather than preparing nutritious although more time-consuming meals, well isn’t it really we who are to blame for the state of our health?

  2. Reblogged this on Melanie Bennett and commented:
    Help us in this challenge‎

  3. Indeed, all of the single issue charities (and other entities, as well) have this dilemma, some, such as the March of Dimes do succeed in retargeting themselves but most most don’t.

    Best solution is still tort reform followed by removal of all third party payors from primary care (don’t panic, the two reforms will make it affordable for almost all, voluntary pro bono care will cover the rest, at least it always did). If the customer is paying for the care the incentive to have efficacious care will resurface, rather than the motive of selling drugs forever. which cost the consumer nothing, other than their health which they appear to not understand.

    • I had a friend who had qualms about part of her job as the number two person in human resources for an international manufacturing firm. She was in charge of fund raising (via employee payroll deduction) for the United Way. Now setting aside the scandal that organization’s CEO caused a few years back, her role in coercing (the term the company used was “convincing”) employees to authorize a payroll deduction was little more than the thuggery employed by unions to solicit new members.

      On the other hand, I participated actively in another client’s activities to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Fund. As we know, CF is a genetically determined disease and has nothing to do with individual lifestyle choices. It has been both remarkable and gratifying to see how research and the development of new exercise techniques have been able to extend the lives of those who are born with the genetic defect by at least ten years. They are still on the list of charities to which I make an annual donation.

      You are right on the money with tort reform as well as your analysis that some patients, viewing it as “free” simply abuse the system and fill up doctors’ offices with needless visits. I guess that if you don’t see yourself paying for something you want to get as much of it as possible. What a mindset.

      • You’re correct, of course, and in painting with a broad brush, I risked brushing some worthy organizations. I know better ut commboxes are small! 🙂

        Ah yes, the United Way, a group of charitable thugs who under no circumstances will I support, it was a factor in leaving one job, I’m nearly as reluctant with the Red Cross, they do good work but they do not so good as well mostly connected with the quasi-governmental status.

        It’s not a total answer, of course, but a much better start than copying the NHS.

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